New China Life Insurance Secures $780m for HK IPO

New China Life Insurance Co Ltd has received commitments from four cornerstone investors for $780 million worth of shares in the Hong Kong tranche of its initial public offering, IFR reported on Monday, citing two sources with direct knowledge of the deal, Reuters reports. Among the investors is South Korean private equity firm MBK Partners which will buy $100 million worth of shares, IFR added, writes Reuters.

(Reuters) – New China Life Insurance Co Ltd has received commitments from four cornerstone investors for $780 million worth of shares in the Hong Kong tranche of its initial public offering, IFR reported on Monday, citing two sources with direct knowledge of the deal.

The commitments account for nearly half of the Hong Kong tranche of the $3 billion dual listing that is also taking place in Shanghai, said IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication. The sources were not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

Shares of Chinese insurance companies have plunged since the beginning of the year on concerns over a slowdown in profits and worries that a steep decline in equity markets will increase mark-to-market losses on insurers’ balance sheets.

China Life Insurance Co. Ltd shares tumbled 39 percent, while Ping An Insurance dropped 40.2 percent and China Taiping Insurance Holdings Co. fell 39 percent. The Hang Seng Finance Index, which tracks the performance of 12 banks and insurance companies, fell 30.6 percent over the same period.

“The valuations have come down a fair bit compared to the beginning of the year, so of course it’s not the ideal time from that perspective,” said Baron Nie, an analyst at Yuanta Securities in Hong Kong. “Of course, there are reasons they need to go to the market to raise capital.”

New China Life has said it would use the IPO proceeds to replenish capital because it had not met regulatory requirements on adequacy ratios.

New China Life Insurance, 15 percent owned by Swiss insurer Zurich Financial Services AG, is among a handful of companies selling shares in Asia-Pacific despite mounting concerns over volatile global equity markets.

Chow Tai Fook, the world’s largest jewellery retailer, is looking to raise up to $2.8 billion in a Hong Kong offering, while luxury automobile dealer Baoxin Auto Group Ltd. could sell $580 million worth of shares.

Singapore’s Great Eastern Holdings Ltd agreed to buy $380 million worth of H-shares, while hedge fund D.E. Shaw and Malaysian state investor Khazanah Nasional Bhd are each committing $150 million. South Korean private equity firm MBK Partners will buy $100 million worth of shares, IFR added.

MBK’s involvement as a cornerstone shows how private equity firms are increasingly stepping in to join pre-IPO financings. The funds are providing capital to fast-growing companies on the IPO track that need a chunk of cash before they can list, an area of financing that hedge funds previously dominated in Asia prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

China International Capital Corp (CICC) and UBS Securities are lead underwriters of New China Life’s Shanghai offering. UBS AG and CICC are also handling the Hong Kong portion of the deal with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas SA , Deutsche Bank AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc , HSBC Holdings Plc and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (Writing by Elzio Barreto; Editing by Chris Lewis and Matt Driskill)