Friday, 16 July 2010

ABC Makes its IPO

The much-anticipated initial public offering of the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) was a bit of a dud today.

There was lots of hype about the last of the "big four" state-owned banks going public in both Hong Kong and Shanghai.

However, in Hong Kong, the price closed at HK$3.27 ($0.42), only a 2.2 percent increase from the opening price of HK$3.20.

ABC has yet to decide if it will exercise an option to issue more shares, which could determine if ABC's IPO will overtake Industrial and Commercial Bank of China's (ICBC) record-setting $21.9 billion in 2006.

In Hong Kong, ABC chairman Xiang Junbo said the flotation was a "historic moment" and "the first step of the internationalization of ABC."

He added he was pleased with ABC's share price in the midst of a weak stock market. "I am very satisfied. It's really not too bad -- HK$3.30," referring to the share price.

Considering ABC is the weakest of the "big four", perhaps it is a decent performance. This bank isn't particularly known for good performing loans, as it was started by Mao Zedong in 1951 to help out farmers.

And over time, like many state banks, it has been ordered by the government to lend out money for national infrastructure projects, including most recently the massive economic stimulus package in early 2009.

Nevertheless, heavyweight investors like Qatar's sovereign investment fund, Standard Chartered and Li Ka-shing were rounded up to invest in the Hong Kong IPO.

While it looks impressive having these heavy hitters buying up ABC shares, how much longer they will hold onto them?

That will really determine ABC's staying power.

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