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China Life shares soar at start of HK debut
( 2003-12-18 16:23) (Agencies)

China Life, China's largest life assurer, soared at the start of its market debut in Hong Kong on Thursday, as the territory's exchange decided to proceed with trading despite errors in published stock allocations for thousands of retail investors.

The error which appeared in newspaper advertisements on Wednesday mixed up retail investors allocated 2,000 shares with those who received 3,000 shares. The glitch affected between 10,000 and 20,000 investors, the company said. China Life issued a statement clarifying the error, however market regulators were vigilant for signs investors were trying to sell shares they do not own.

The shares opened in Hong Kong at HK$4.525, a premium of 24 per cent to the initial public offering price of HK$3.59, and was the most actively traded stock with volume of 333.2m. On Wednesday, China Life's American depository shares jumped by more than one-third when trading started, to close up 27 per cent at $23.72 on the New York Stock Exchange.

China Life raised $3.4bn, making it the biggest IPO of the year. The shares on offer were more than 20 times subscribed.

"It is a barometer for 2004, and a sign of the demand that appears to be growing for [Chinese] deals," said David Menlo of IPO Financial Network, the research firm.

A handful of other Chinese companies have filed plans for big IPOs of their own, including China Construction Bank, which might raise as much as $5bn, Semiconductor Manufacturing International, which is looking for $1bn, and Ping An Insurance, which could raise $2bn.

The China Life market debut comes a week after Ctrip, a small Chinese online travel agency, enjoyed the biggest first-day share price jump in the US since the days of the dotcom boom. Ctrip's stock rose more than threefold when it opened and ended with a first day gain of nearly 90 per cent.

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