State-owned China Tower starts trading in Hong Kong

Hong Kong (AFP) –


State-owned China Tower -- the world's largest operator of telecommunications towers -- kicked off its trading debut in Hong Kong Wednesday in the latest high-profile listing in the city.

Shares were at HK$1.27 ($0.16) in the first few minutes, slightly up on their IPO price of HK$1.26.

China Tower is the world's largest IPO since Postal Savings Bank of China's $7.6 billion offering in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

But although Hong Kong's recent listings have grabbed headlines, investor confidence has been overshadowed by US-China trade tensions and falling global markets.

China Tower raised $6.9 billion after pricing its initial public offering at the low end of the expected range.

The Beijing-based telecoms giant is the second prominent company to price at the low end recently, following Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi's disappointing valuation in July.

Some observers say investors may see China Tower as a safe bet on the country's mobile market because of its government backing.

But others argue the fact it is a state-backed monopoly could limit growth due to lack of competition.

China Tower was established by China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom in 2014. They agreed to combine their tower assets by selling them to China Tower in 2015.

Hillhouse Capital, affiliates of China National Petroleum Corp and Taobao -- a subsidiary of Alibaba -- are reported to be among the 10 cornerstone investors.

The company said at its IPO launch event in Hong Kong in July that "international companies and giant domestic companies" were among the cornerstone investors.

Hong Kong is seeking to become a destination for major IPOs after being snubbed by Alibaba's overseas listing in 2014.