China On Pace For Record IPO, Again

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Agricultural Bank of China's initial public offering could be on its way to becoming the largest IPO ever, surpassing a record set by a peer Chinese bank in 2006.

AgBank will raise $19.3 billion -- before an overallotment of shares -- according to anonymously sourced reports from Hong Kong and mainland China that began filtering through the financial press on Tuesday.

In 2006, the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China raised $21.9 billion, but it is now expected to fall to second place on the list of all-time IPO fund raisings, if AgBank's share overallotment nudges its IPO over the $22 billion mark.

AgBank is dual listing its IPO in Hong Kong and mainland China. According to anonymous sources quoted by Bloomberg and Reuters, the Hong Kong-listed AgBank shares have priced at HK3.20, and the yuan-denominated shares have priced at 2.68 yuan, or approximately 40 to 41 cents.

The pricing information indicates that AgBank will raise a total of $19.3 billion, with the overallotment raising the IPO proceeds to $22.2 billion.

Many major Wall Street banks are involved in the Hong Kong listing of AgBank shares, including Deutsche Bank ( DB), Goldman Sachs ( GS), JPMorgan ( JPM) and Morgan Stanley ( MS).

Standard Chartered, the lead underwriter of the AgBank deal among Western banks, is investing $500 million in the IPO.

Sovereign wealth giants buying into AgBank shares include the Qatar Investment Authority and Kuwait Investment Authority.

The IPO market is far from robust, though the splash made by AgBank follows the headline-making IPO from Tesla Motors ( TSLA) last week and anticipation of a GM IPO, too.

The China-specific IPO story is contending with a big Chinese equities market slump -- down 25% this year -- and fears that China's real estate market is teetering on the verge of implosion, according to many bearish market experts. However, Chinese IPOs can be counted on to continue playing a starring role in capital markets action.

While the anonymous Chinese market sources were telling the financial press on Tuesday that the new IPO fundraising bar would be set by AgBank, not everyone was convinced that a record would be set. Some market watchers speculated that continued market jitters and fears about China's recent slump would keep AgBank from shattering the IPO record.

PricewaterhouseCoopers released an IPO report on Monday predicting that China will see 300 new stock market listings in 2010, a more than 200% uptick from the 99 in 2009. Chinese companies will raise $74 billion in the two major markets of Shanghai and Shenzen, according to PWC. So far this year, there have been 180 IPOs in China, according to Bloomberg data, and an average post-IPO Chinese stock share price surge of 7.8%.

AgBank's oft-referenced history highlights its creation by Mao Zedong in 1951 to fund agricultural cooperatives, to its $30 billion bailout by the Chinese government earlier this decade when one-quarter of its loans were in default.

-- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.

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