Chow Tai Fook, New China Life slump

Updated: 2011-12-16 08:12

By Vinicy Chanand Fox Hu(HK Edition)

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Chow Tai Fook, New China Life slump

A salesperson looks at a selection of gold bracelets in a Chow Tai Fook store. The company's share price, along with that of New China Life Insurance, dropped in the Hong Kong stock market on Thursday, their first trading day. Aaron Tam / AFP

Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group Ltd and New China Life Insurance Co fell on their first trading day in the city on Thursday, reflecting a slump in demand for new equities as China's growth slows and Europe's debt crisis persists.

Chow Tai Fook, the world's largest listed jewelry chain, dropped as much as 8.9 percent after raising HK$15.8 billion ($2 billion) in an initial public offering. New China Life, the country's third-largest life insurer, fell as much as 9.1 percent after completing a $1.9 billion IPO.

"Investors are holding on to their cash, doubtful about not only new stocks, but also shares in the secondary market," said Ronald Wan, a Hong Kong-based managing director at China Merchants Securities Co. "Worries about Europe will keep investors cautious in months to come."

Chow Tai Fook and New China Life fell even after pricing their IPOs at or near the bottom of ranges marketed to investors.

"With the uncertain outlook for the macro economy, it's difficult to ask investors to buy newly listed stocks at the moment," said Alex Au, managing director of Richland Capital Management Ltd.

Chow Tai Fook's offer price values the company at about 15 times estimated profit for the year ending March 2013, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Tiffany & Co, the New York-based luxury jeweler, trades at 15.4 times the average analyst estimate for 2012 earnings, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

China Polymetallic Mining Ltd plunged 39.2 percent on Wednesday on its debut after raising HK$1.1 billion in a Hong Kong IPO. The companies are poised for the worst debuts among Hong Kong IPOs of at least $1 billion since June, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Other companies selling stock for the first time, including Haitong Securities Co and Guodian Technology & Environment Group Corp, canceled or reduced offerings in the past week as the economic turmoil sapped demand for equities.

Chow Tai Fook expects "buying power of customers to weaken" amid the slowing global economy, Chairman Henry Cheng said on Thursday.

"With gold's price coming down from its peak, sales growth at gold shops would inevitably fall," said Jason Yuan, a Shanghai-based analyst at UOB Kay Hian Holdings Ltd. "The high-growth period is over."

The jeweler's same-store sales growth for the six months ended Sept 30 was 62 percent, according to its listing prospectus.

New China Life is raising more equity after its expansion in a market that has grown an average 30 percent a year during the past three decades brought its solvency ratio, a gauge of its ability to settle claims, below regulatory requirements.

Chinese life insurers' capital strength may weaken further as stocks decline amid an economic slowdown and crimp profitability, Fitch Ratings said in an e-mailed report on Dec 7. The Shanghai Composite Index Thursday fell to its lowest close since March 2009.

The company's "quality isn't perceived as good as other listed insurers in the market," said Au of Richland Capital. "If the general macro economy is not so certain, investors tend to stick with higher quality names."

New China Life raised $1.3 billion in Hong Kong and $580 million in Shanghai, where it will start trading on Friday.


(HK Edition 12/16/2011 page2)