China Life sees share price double in IPO

Updated: 2007-01-09 16:15

China Life, the country's No. 1 life insurer, saw its share price soar Tuesday in its widely anticipated debut on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, an IPO that raised nearly 28 billion yuan (US$3.6 billion; euro2.8 billion).

China Life's shares opened trading at 37 yuan (US$4.74; euro3.64), up from the company's initial public offering price of 18.88 yuan (US$2.42; euro1.86). Its shares closed at 38.93 yuan (US$5.00; euro3.84).

The insurer's better-than-expected debut helped lift the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index to a record high close of 2,807.80, up 3.7 percent from Monday.

China Life already has shares traded in New York and Hong Kong.

In contrast to Shanghai, in Hong Kong the life insurer's shares fell 4.28 percent to 25.70 Hong Kong dollars (US$3.29; euro2.53) by midafternoon, amid heavy selling of mainland-based heavyweights.

Analysts consider the life insurer to be overvalued, and investors are expected to sell to lock in profits following the market's surge to record highs in recent weeks.

"The price in Shanghai market is a little bit too high and I don't think it accurately reflects the company's real situation," said Zhu Haibin, an analyst with Everbright Securities in Shanghai.

Chinese officials are trying to build up the country's stock markets by encouraging bigger companies to list shares domestically following a wave of overseas IPOs that have raised billions of dollars.

China Life has benefited from strong growth prospects and the relative scarcity of insurance stocks on mainland exchanges, as well as an overall buying fervor that intensified late last year.

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