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Hong Kong leads world in IPOs for 2018, driven by tech listings

Looser rules encourage big stock debuts around Asia

Xiaomi founder, Chairman and CEO Lei Jun hits the gong during the listing of his company on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on July 9.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- The crown for the world's top IPO market returned to Hong Kong in 2018, thanks to debuts by major Chinese technology companies won amid fierce global competition.

Fundraising through initial public offerings on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange looks to reach $36.6 billion this year, 120% more than in 2017, according to Deloitte. The New York Stock Exchange, which topped the list last year, appears headed for second place with $28.8 billion, followed by the Tokyo Stock Exchange at $26.2 billion.

A record 208 businesses are debuting in Hong Kong this year, including smartphone maker Xiaomi and food delivery-to-ticketing services platform Meituan Dianping. Of the 133 IPOs on the main board, 36 are by "new economy" companies in high-growth tech fields, according to KPMG.

The boom was fueled partly by changes to Hong Kong's listing rules in April. Xiaomi, for example, became the first company with multiple classes of shares carrying different voting rights -- an increasingly popular structure among tech companies -- to list on the exchange.

Many of 2018's biggest IPOs came from Asian companies. SoftBank Group's mobile unit, which debuted in Tokyo on Wednesday, topped the global list at $21.1 billion, followed by China Tower with $7.5 billion and Xiaomi's $5.4 billion. Foxconn Industrial Internet, a unit of key iPhone assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, ranked high on the list as well.

Exchanges worldwide are vying to attract big tech IPOs, which tend to draw considerable interest from investors. Online video portal iQiyi, e-commerce platform Pinduoduo and music streaming service Tencent Music Entertainment Group -- all China-based companies -- listed in the U.S. this year.

The Singapore Exchange this year decided to let companies list with dual-class shares, not long after rival Hong Kong. Shanghai is considering forming a separate board for high-tech businesses.

As for 2019, Deloitte expects about 200 companies to debut in Hong Kong, raising up to 230 billion Hong Kong dollars ($29.4 billion). Though stock prices have flagged of late, many promising companies are waiting in the wings to go public.

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