IPO markets boom as China deals slow

Growth areas: A man watches share prices on a digital broadcast outside the Bombay Stock Exchange. Investors are boosting exposure to markets outside China, with some buying into IPOs from countries like India and Indonesia for the first time. — AFP

NEW YORK: China’s crackdown on technology companies is prompting global investors to look for new opportunities across Asia, contributing to a record jump in initial public offerings (IPOs) from India to South Korea that shows few signs of slowing.

Tech companies from those two countries and South-East Asia have raised US$8bil (RM33.56bil) from first-time share sales this year, already blowing past the previous annual peak.

The tally is poised to get bigger with planned listings by companies including Indian fintech giant Paytm and Indonesian Internet conglomerate GoTo, both of which may break local fundraising records.

Long overshadowed by their Chinese peers, this new crop of startups is coming of age just as Beijing’s clampdown puts a damper on listing and growth prospects in what had long been the region’s hottest IPO market.

The result, some bankers said, may be the start of a new era for tech listings in Asia. Investors are already boosting exposure to markets outside China, with some buying into IPOs from countries like India and Indonesia for the first time.

Prospective issuers that historically benchmarked themselves against Chinese companies are now highlighting similarities to other global peers in hopes of attaining higher valuations.

“These are strong companies and stories in their own right, but the overwhelming demand has been enhanced by rotation away from China tech,” said Udhay Furtado, co-head of Asia equity capital markets at Citigroup Inc.

China’s regulatory onslaught, now in its 10th month since the shock implosion of Ant Group Co’s IPO, has slashed valuations for the nation’s listed tech companies by nearly 40%. It has also forced many startups to pause their IPO plans after regulators announced a stricter vetting process for overseas offerings.

China and Hong Kong accounted for about 60% of Asian tech IPOs since the end of June, down from 83% in the second quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. About three quarters of Chinese companies that listed overseas this year are now trading below their IPO prices.

Meanwhile, deals in smaller markets are attracting outsized demand as investors bet on increasingly Internet-savvy populations, growing consumer spending and a new class of tech entrepreneurs.

PT Bukalapak.com, an Indonesian e-commerce firm, raised US$1.5bil (RM6.29bil) around the end of July in the country’s largest ever IPO, far outstripping an early goal of between US$300mil (RM1.26bil) and US$500mil (RM2.1bil).

Zomato Ltd, an Indian online food-delivery and restaurant platform, received bids worth 1.5 trillion rupees (US$20.2bil or RM84.74bil) from large funds for its anchor tranche, making it one of the most popular Indian offerings among institutional investors. The company raised US$1.3bil (RM5.45bil) in July.

KakaoBank Corp, South Korea’s first Internet-only lender to go public, sold US$2.2bil (RM9.23bil) of new shares last month and soared more than 70% in its trading debut.

The hurdle for allocating capital to tech companies in China “is now much higher than it was even a month ago,” said Vikas Pershad, a portfolio manager at M&G Investments (Singapore) Pte. “The net exposure to China tech is lower and the net exposure to technology-driven business models outside of China is higher.”

One banker who asked not to be named discussing client information said some Hong Kong-based investors who previously focused on Chinese deals are now participating in tech IPOs elsewhere in the region.

US hedge funds are also looking at India more closely, another banker said. Morgan Stanley research analysts recently advised clients to re-balance their Internet holdings away from China and into India and South-East Asia. — Bloomberg

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