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Biotech Firm Moves to Revive Hong Kong IPO Market


A Chinese biotechnology company kicked off what would be Hong Kong’s first sizable listing after a summer of unrest and stock-market weakness, on the same day the city’s exchange-operator made a surprise bid for its London rival.

The listing by Shanghai Henlius Biotech Inc., which could raise up to $477 million, would reopen a market that has shrunk sharply compared with 2018, with a couple of blockbuster deals falling through. Trade tensions, China’s economic slowdown and unrest in the city have dented market sentiment, and share-trading has declined year over year.

Companies raised $9.5 billion in IPOs this year through Sept. 11, roughly 40% of the total raised in the same period last year, according to Dealogic.

In July,

Anheuser-Busch InBev
SA


BUD 0.07%

halted a unit’s nearly $10 billion IPO, blaming market conditions, and in August people familiar with the matter said

Alibaba Group Holding

Ltd. had postponed plans for a multibillion-dollar listing in the city.

Late Wednesday, AB InBev said it was resuming its application to list the Asian unit in Hong Kong, adding that any final decision about taking the business public would “depend on a number of factors and prevailing market conditions.”

The Shanghai Henlius listing would represent about 12% of its enlarged share base, and value the company at about $3 billion to $3.5 billion, according to a term sheet seen by The Wall Street Journal. The figures don’t include an overallotment option to sell more stock.

Other prospective issuers include consumer lender Home Credit NV, which is looking to raise up to $1.5 billion and list by early in the fourth quarter, and Chinese sportswear retailer Topsports International Holdings Ltd., which aims to raise about $1 billion.

Sungho Im, chief executive at asset-management firm IM Capital Partners Ltd., said investors’ risk appetite is returning.

The city also is playing host to new bond sales. Volumes dipped to $5.9 billion in August, but were still higher than the same month a year earlier, and have since recovered to top $7 billion in the first 11 days of this month, Dealogic says.

The figures cover Hong Kong-listed deals in dollars, yen, or euros by bond issuers from Asian countries other than Japan.

Deals this week include $2.5 billion of green bonds from

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China

’s Hong Kong branch, and a $600 million perpetual bond from Hong Kong insurer FWD Group. It priced the deal to yield 6.375%, lower than initial guidance for a yield of around 6.5%, implying solid demand.

In August, three Hong Kong-based bankers said investment roadshows had been put off until September, including one for a Chinese developer planning an inaugural dollar-bond sale. Some bankers have been forced to cancel trips to meet clients or met them in mainland China, while executives at some Chinese issuers also delayed trips.

Citigroup

’s Asia co-head of debt syndicate, Rishi Jalan, said bond deals this month had been oversubscribed. He said issuers had to pay little or even negative new-issue premiums to borrow, meaning some new securities offered lower yields than comparable existing debt. “Most investors in Hong Kong are international players who look at global rates and macroeconomic trends while making investment decisions,” Jalan said. “The recent events in Hong Kong have not dampened investor sentiment in primary bond markets.”

Write to Joanne Chiu at joanne.chiu@wsj.com and Frances Yoon at frances.yoon@wsj.com

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