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Ant's dual listing could double cross Wall Street

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Ant's seal of approval will encourage more Chinese issuers to consider the upstart venue, especially as souring Sino-US relations make New York less attractive.

[HONG KONG] Ant's dual listing is bad news for Wall Street. A chunk of the US$150 billion fintech giant will be sold on Shanghai's fledgling Star board, which is proving popular with big issuers and where fees for initial public offerings (IPOs) are as generous as in New York. Hong Kong bankers could be left with a smaller share of the pie. If more issuers follow Ant's march, Wall Street's dues are in for a reckoning.

Issuers with dual-class shares and structures utilised to skirt foreign investment rules couldn't previously list in China, forcing them to flock to New York or Hong Kong. The former British territory was a natural fit for those that wanted to list closer to their home market. Launched last year, Star is accommodating and fast becoming a formidable threat. It has hosted 77 IPOs that have raised US$12.8 billion this year, according to Dealogic, versus 73 that raised US$9.2 billion in Hong Kong.

Ant's seal of approval will encourage more Chinese issuers to consider the upstart venue, especially as souring Sino-US relations make New York less attractive. That puts Wall Street in a bind. Foreign banks are unlikely to take big roles on Ant's Star listing or others on the board because they have to pay to play: Local rules state lead banks must buy at least 2 per cent of shares issued, which many are reluctant to do. That cuts them off from bumper fees: Star issuers paid 5.8 per cent of their IPO proceeds in fees this year on average, versus 5.3 per cent on the Nasdaq and a paltry 2.4 per cent in Hong Kong, Dealogic data shows.

Issuers might choose to list on both bourses to access domestic and foreign capital. Ant plans to sell 10 per cent of its shares in Shanghai and 5 per cent in Hong Kong for a combined US$30 billion, Caixin reported. Even if Ant is as frugal when it comes to paying fees as Alibaba, which paid banks 1.2 per cent of proceeds for its 2014 listing in New York, that would mean US$240 million in fees for the Star portion and half that for Hong Kong. With ByteDance and others eyeing debuts on the mainland, Wall Street's paltry spoils in Hong Kong could shrink further while Chinese banks cash in.

Ant Group, the financial services affiliate of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, said on July 20 that it had started the process for a dual listing on Shanghai's Nasdaq-style Star market and the Hong Kong stock exchange. Details such as the size and timetable of the initial public offering were not disclosed.

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Ant was valued at US$150 billion in its last private fundraising round in 2018. The company is targeting a valuation of more than US$200 billion from the IPO, Reuters reported on July 8.

 

REUTERS

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