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Equity: Hutch puts its trust in Singapore

Hutchison Ports Holdings chose Singapore for a record-breaking IPO because SGX’s business trust structure assures the Hutch listing, HPH Trust, of continuing control by its existing owners. Investors bought the deal because of its yield prospects, but are they guaranteed? Chris Wright reports

RECORDS ARE MADE to be broken, but you usually have a fair idea who is likely to break them. Had you laid bets a year ago on what would replace Malaysia’s Petronas Chemicals as southeast Asia’s largest ever IPO, you might have plumped for an ­Indonesian resources play, or a Singaporean sovereign wealth fund spin-off, or even another arm of Petronas. You would have made a lot of guesses before you came up with a port operator that isn’t based in southeast Asia, doesn’t have a single asset there, is owned by Hong Kong’s ultimate tycoon and has opted not to list as a company at all, but as a trust. But this is the curious case of HPH Trust, the owner of about 60% of Hong Kong’s Kwai Tsing container port, Shenzhen’s ­Yantian container port, and a few auxiliary assets. HPH Trust is sponsored by Hutchison Ports Holdings, by some measures the world’s top port operator; that company, in turn, is owned by Hutchison Whampoa, the conglomerate controlled by Li Ka-Shing – the tycoon’s tycoon, as central and iconic to Hong Kong as the Bank of China building. Yet this two-port trust of Pearl River assets raised $5.5

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