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Coal India IPO sets a record

Investors poured into the offering, placing more than $50 billion of orders. In a year in which equity deals from emerging markets have dominated, the company showed that demand for the biggest Indian stocks could soon rival that for companies from China and Brazil. Chris Wright tells the inside story of what bankers hope will be a watershed trade.

IT IS THE very definition of a big industrial group: the headcount of a decent-sized western city, an affiliation of nine companies, covering 471 separate coal mines. It faces 4,000 different lawsuits, powerful unions and the threat of Maoist rebels around many of its mines. Yet when the books closed on October 21, Coal India became the largest IPO in India’s history: a $3.46 billion deal that shot up 40% on its first day of trading and attracted $52.5 billion of demand – most of it international. How did this happen? The reasons stem from what one banker calls a "perfect storm" of circumstances: thirst for emerging markets paper, even more thirst for resource companies, buoyant markets and a company that, unlike many other big state-owned companies around the world, is both well run and able to communicate its story worldwide.

But when 16 shortlisted investment banks filed into the offices of the Ministry of Finance’s Department of Disinvestment in New Delhi for pitch meetings in early May, it was not obvious that the deal would be such a runaway success.

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