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Opinion

China Tower listing: A throwback with a twist

A listing of a state-owned infrastructure asset owner in Hong Kong sounds old school, but its key investors tell another story.

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There is something pleasingly retro about the Hong Kong IPO of China Tower Corporation. Amid a tide of new technology listings, China Tower is strikingly tangible: it owns telecommunications towers, 1.8 million of them.

The deal, which seeks to raise up to $8.68 billion, has some other areas of significance too.

In another throwback, it is the largest state-owned float in Hong Kong since Agricultural Bank of China in 2010. It is a chance to put some zip back into the market after the mild disappointment of the Xiaomi listing, which raised $4.7 billion in June.

And it is a fairly unusual opportunity to buy a company with a near-total monopoly in China, owning 97% of its market.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about it is what it tells us about Asian homegrown private equity.

Odd… or not?

The biggest disclosed cornerstone stake in the deal is a $400 million commitment from Hillhouse Capital, with a further $100 million from Alibaba. Classic China stalwarts are in there too – ICBC, Sinopec, SAIC Motor, as well as New York-listed Och-Ziff Capital Management – but isn’t this an odd, old-economy place to find Hillhouse and Alibaba?

On first glance, yes.


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