The world’s biggest equity capital markets deal of 2021 has almost exclusively come out of Asia, a sign of the growing clout of the region’s companies even as markets teeter going into year-end.
A $14.7 billion secondary share sale in Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. in March is the biggest follow-on offering in 2021 as well as the second-largest block trade on record.
On the initial public offerings front, U.S. electric truck-maker Rivian Automotive Inc. nabbed the top spot with its $13.7 billion listings. Last year Asian firms accounted for half of the world’s 10 biggest IPOs.
In this global environment for the IPO product, Asia has again dominated in producing the largest deals,” said William Smiley, co-head of ECM at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in Asia ex-Japan. “This is despite a more muted market environment for Asian equity markets, which may permeate more broadly to the rest of the world given global macro headwinds in 2022.”
Asia’s strong showing comes during a record year for IPOs globally, thanks to sky-high stock prices and markets awash with liquidity from central banks. However, cracks have begun to appear in the past few months as inflationary pressures and increased volatility hurt investor appetite. Regional IPO powerhouse Hong Kong has also been hit by China’s sprawling regulatory crackdown.
Asian firms also accounted for most large issuances of convertible bonds. Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s $4.6 billion offering ranks as the world’s biggest this year, followed by Bank of Nanjing Co. and Bank of Shanghai Co., the data show.
Already last year Chinese companies made up the highest percentage of global IPOs since the financial crisis as investors cheered its early emergence from the pandemic. Delisting threats from the U.S. also prompted a wave of so-called homecoming listings in Hong Kong by American-traded Chinese firms.
The boom continued into 2021, and until Rivian’s IPO in November the two biggest listings of the year were China Telecom Corp.’s $8.4 billion Shanghai share sale and social video giant Kuaishou Technology’s $6.2 billion Hong Kong float.
Beijing’s campaign to rein in its free-wheeling technology sector though has caused many Chinese IPOs to sink below their offering prices. The biggest listings by mainland firms are all underwater, and even South Korea’s e-commerce giant Coupang Inc. — among the world’s top five IPOs — is trading 20% below its listing price as losses mount and spending remains high.
“This year has not been an easy one for the Asian capital markets. Things got progressively harder as the year progressed and since China peaked in Q1,” Smiley said.
The outlook for 2022 remains murky as far as China — the region’s biggest driver of equity capital markets activity — is concerned. While most banks have a large pipeline of deals, the continued uncertainty over Beijing’s regulatory actions is likely to stymie a flurry of activity.