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Merger Monday arrives in Asia with US$19b flurry of deals

[HONG KONG] Merger Monday has arrived in Asia.

Asian companies announced about US$19 billion of transactions in less than 24 hours, making this the busiest start to a week for the region's dealmaking in nearly a year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The day was led by billionaire Sun Hongbin, who sealed China's biggest-ever property acquisition on Monday, rounded out by a deal to create the biggest shipping company plying the Pacific Ocean trade routes.

This week's string of transactions offered a glimmer of hope for investment bankers in the region, who have seem volumes drop after the Chinese government warned about risks in overseas investments and clamped down on some types of dealmaking.

Asian mergers and acquisitions fell 13 per cent in the six months through June to US$495.5 billion, the worst first half since 2014, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

"It's rare to see several transactions get announced over a short span of time," Steven Leung, an executive director at UOB Kay Hian Ltd. in Hong Kong, said by phone.

"Merger Monday is more common in the US given its sheer amount of deals."

It started off Sunday evening, when state-owned Chinese container line Cosco Shipping Holdings offered US$6.3 billion for Hong Kong rival Orient Overseas International.

Then early Monday, Dalian Wanda Group announced two deals worth a combined US$9.3 billion to sell theme park and hotel assets to Sunac China Holdings. 

Chinese homebuilder Future Land Development Holdings said before the market opened Monday it's preparing to announce a possible privatisation bid for the company, which has a market value of US$2 billion.

Property tycoon Wang Jianlin's Wanda Film Holding also revealed details of a potential purchase, saying it planned to issue new stock to acquire its parent company's Wanda Pictures film-production business.

"The deals fall under sectors that are ripe for industry consolidation," said Sam Lee, head of equities research at China Merchants Securities' Hong Kong unit.

"Shipping and real estate in China are both facing a tough operating environment, so companies in those sectors may want to gain market share and competitiveness by conducting M&A."

The last time Asian dealmaking was this busy was July 18 last year, when companies led by SoftBank Group started the week by signing more than US$30 billion of transactions, the Bloomberg-compiled data show. 

SoftBank, backed by billionaire Masayoshi Son, announced a Monday deal to buy chip designer ARM Holdings Plc just after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

The same day, a Chinese investor group said it would buy the web-browser business of Norwegian developer Opera Software ASA.

Announcing deals on Mondays allows bankers and lawyers to spend the weekend hammering out final terms of a transaction, without worrying about leaks during trading hours and requirements to keep investors informed. 

While the practice has taken hold mostly in the US and Europe, its importance could grow in markets like China where companies need to suspend trading while negotiating a major transaction.

For all the fanfare this Monday, there were some hiccups.  Hours after the Wanda Group conglomerate revealed the asset sale to Sunac in a website statement, the acquirer was still suspended from trading, with only a holding announcement saying details of a substantial acquisition would be released.

Some itchy investors started buying up shares of Wanda Hotel Development, which more than doubled its market value in Hong Kong before saying it wasn't involved in the transaction. It still ended the day up 47 per cent.