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US SEC questions China Life's offer
( 2003-11-18 10:17) (China Daily HK Edition)

China Life Insurance, which hopes to launch a US$2-US$3 billion initial public offering soon, is facing questions from US regulators over a recent restructuring, sources familiar with the deal said yesterday.

China's largest life underwriter is waiting for listing approval from Hong Kong's stock exchange. A prolonged delay could jeopardize the chances for the company to come to market in Hong Kong and New York by year-end in what would be Asia's biggest IPO outside Japan this year.

China Life was subjected to a second listing hearing with the Hong Kong exchange last Thursday after it was asked to provide more information on a recent group restructuring.

Until recently, the Hong Kong bourse typically granted approval to successful listings candidates shortly after a single hearing, but bankers have said it now often seeks further information and waits several days to grant final approval.

China Life's bankers met officials from the Hong Kong exchange again yesterday on disclosure issues, a source said, adding that a reply was expected within days.

They are also dealing with questions from the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the company's recent restructuring, the source said.

Previously, China Life had planned to apply yesterday to regulators in the United States and Japan for approval to sell shares in those markets as part of its global offering.

The company has not yet filed its listing application with the SEC, the source said.

China Life plans to list both in Hong Kong and New York.

The firm was set up as a joint stock company in August to pluck healthier assets for potential foreign investors and pave the way for an overseas share sale. It took over life policies sold in or after 1999 from its parent.

China International Capital Corp, Citigroup, Credit Suisse First Boston and Deutsche Bank are handling China Life's IPO.

The planned deal comes after China's top property insurer, PICC Property and Casualty, raised HK$6.221 billion (US$797.56 million) from a share sale that drew huge demand from investors.

PICC shares ended at HK$2.55 yesterday, having gained nearly 42 per cent from their IPO price.

Apart from China Life, the country's second-largest insurer Ping An Insurance is also gearing up for a share sale in Hong Kong that could raise about US$2 billion.

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