Photo: Reuters / Thomas White

ZhongAn Online Property & Casualty Insurance Co jumped 18% on debut on Thursday after the biggest ever IPO by a financial technology firm in Asia, boosting Hong Kong’s hopes of luring future Chinese technology startups away from New York.

It also bodes well for expected listings from other fintech giants in Hong Kong, including Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial and the peer-to-peer lending and wealth management platform Lufax.

“I hope this is the beginning of another round of new economy companies choosing Hong Kong,” said Charles Li, CEO of market operator Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd, at the debut ceremony.

“Our market needs to stay competitive, our market needs to stay relevant and we obviously have to stay clear-minded how we go about attracting the right companies into Hong Kong and allowing Hong Kong to be part of the new economy.”

It is understood both Ant Financial and Lufax are considering IPOs in the city, although the timings of any listings remain uncertain.

ZhongAn‘s US$1.5 billion initial public offering (IPO) follows the US$630 million December listing of Chinese photo app maker Meitu Inc, which is up more than 30% as investors chase fast-growing technology firms even before they have made a profit.

“This deal (ZhongAn) and Meitu’s performance clearly show Hong Kong can emerge as a centre for tech deals,” said the head of equity capital markets at a global investment bank who could not be named.

The rarity of technology listings in Hong Kong gave ZhongAn‘s IPO an extra appeal for investors looking to diversify their holdings, the company’s Chief Executive, Jeffrey Chen, told Reuters.

The Shanghai-based online insurer hopes to increase such offerings in the city and invited about 30 Chinese tech companies to a party to celebrate its debut on Thursday night.

Strong start

The stock climbed as high as HK$70.50 in early trade, compared with the HK$59.70 IPO price, before paring gains to HK$67.80. The benchmark Hang Seng index was down 0.3%.

ZhongAn priced the 199.3 million new shares on offer at the top of the IPO’s marketing range of HK$53.70 to HK$59.70 per share.

Demand from retail investors – who have a significant influence over first-day trading in Hong Kong – accounted for 393 times the number of shares on offer in the IPO, ZhongAn said in a securities filing.

Typically, companies going public set aside 10% of shares on offer for retail investors, with the remainder going to institutional buyers, but that volume goes up depending on the level of oversubscription.

In the case of ZhongAn, it originally allocated 5% of shares to retail investors but underwriters ended up having to raise that to 20% because of strong demand, meaning fewer shares were available for professional buyers.

The institutional tranche was “significantly” oversubscribed, ZhongAn said.

Reuters

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