China Outstrips US as Center for IPOs

Associated Press

China has outstripped the U.S. in the amount of money raised from stock listings, underscoring the region's stronger economy and a resurgence in investment.

Companies have raised nearly $52 billion from initial public offerings on exchanges in Hong Kong and mainland China so far this year, according to financial research firm Dealogic. That's about twice as much as the some $26.5 billion in American IPOs. In 2007, the amount of money raised from IPOs in Hong Kong and the mainland also exceeded the U.S. total.

Hong Kong alone has drawn more than $27 billion this year, making the southern Chinese financial center the world's top city for equity capital raising for the first time, according to Dealogic's records dating to 1997. Since 2000, Wall Street has led every year except for 2006, when London was the destination of choice.

The activity underscores the yawning gap in economic strength between Asia and the West.

At a time when the U.S. and European economies are still suffering the effects of the financial crisis, China is headed for growth of 8 percent or more this year. Another indicator of Asia's economic rise has been China's auto market, which eclipsed the U.S. as the world's biggest this year.

China, Chinese Flag

Chinese companies, looking to capitalize on liquidity created by government stimulus measures and raise their international profile, were behind all but a handful of the region's IPOs this year.

But even a couple of Western companies moved to cash in while solidifying their links to a region expected to help underpin their growth for years. U.S. casino companies Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resort both floated Hong Kong shares of their Macau operations in recent months.

Analysts point to a number of lackluster listings as a sign of investor fatigue that could slow the pace of offerings in the near term.

Over the long run, though, the trend is likely to continue even once the U.S. regains some vitality as more and more companies seek a toehold in Asia.

"China is where most of the growth will be compared to other countries in the world," said Belle Liang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi International. "Where else can you see this kind of growth?"

Companies from other parts of the world, including Russian aluminum gain Rusal, are also eying Hong Kong listings.

Greater Chinese IPOs were big in number and size.

Among them: the $7.3 billion IPO from China State Construction Engineering Corp., which listed in Shanghai. The company, builder of the "Water Cube" swimming center for the Beijing Olympic, produced this year's second-largest after Banco Santander Brasil SA's $7.5 billion IPO, according to Dealogic.