Economic Watch: China Unicom shares surge after reform plan finalized

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-21 20:53:37|Editor: Yang Yi
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BEIJING, Aug. 21 (Xinhua) -- Shares of China Unicom surged Monday after trading resumed from a more-than-four-month suspension as its mixed-ownership reform plan, first released last week, secured support from the country's securities regulator.

The telecom carrier's Shanghai-listed unit rallied by the daily limit of 10 percent to 8.22 yuan (1.23 U.S. dollars) per share. Its Hong Kong-traded shares rose 3.52 percent.

The company last Wednesday published a scheme to introduce private investment mainly by issuing shares to buyers including China Life and Tencent, but then withdrew all relevant filings with Shanghai Stock Exchange due to "technical reasons." Analysts believe the issue may breach a 20-percent official cap on private placement.

The restructuring plan reappeared on the Shanghai bourse website Sunday night, followed by a supportive announcement from China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC).

The CSRC said it will treat China Unicom as an exceptional case exempted from stricter refinancing rules effective since February. The CSRC has "understood the significance of China Unicom's restructuring pilot to reforms of the state-owned enterprises (SOEs)," it said.

Under the scheme, Shanghai-listed China United Network Communications Ltd. will issue no more than 9.04 billion shares to raise as much as 61.73 billion yuan by private placement. Taking into account shares transferred to a fund and offered to China Unicom's core employees, the deal will be valued at nearly 78 billion yuan.

Subscribers included Internet giants, state-owned industrial leaders and financial companies.

China Life Insurance, the largest investor in the issue, will acquire a 10.22-percent stake in China United Network Communications Ltd., while Tencent and Baidu will hold 5.18 percent and 3.3 percent of shares, respectively. E-commerce firms Alibaba and were also on the list.

After the issue, private investors will hold a total of 35.19 percent of shares, only slightly lower than China Unicom's holding of 36.67 percent.

China Unicom, the country's second-largest telecom operator, was among the first group to press ahead with the mixed-ownership reform as the government worked to revitalize torpid SOEs, a key link in developing a market economy.

During the first half of this year, the company reported a year-on-year rise of 74.3 percent in net profits, an increase that it attributed to its transformed business patterns and continued reform.

The forecast-beating reform features a large proportion of stake transferred to private investors, which will boost the company's efficiency and help establish a modern corporate system, said Pan Helin, an analyst with the Ministry of Finance.

"It is the biggest pilot as far, and will blaze a trail for other SOEs with its cooperation with Internet firms, employee stock ownership and adjustments in corporate governance," said Li Jin, chief researcher with China Enterprise Research Institute.

Similar adjustments are being pushed forward steadily in other state firms in sectors ranging from aviation and shipbuilding to power supply. Two groups of central SOEs have initiated mixed-ownership reform and the third is being reviewed by authorities.

Besides bringing in private investment, SOEs were also encouraged to undertake mergers and acquisitions to forge stronger competitiveness.

The State-Owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission Monday unveiled the reorganization of three SOEs. Sinolight Corporation and China National Arts and Crafts (Group) Corporation will be merged into China Poly Group Corporation, a conglomerate doing business in areas ranging from trade and real estate to mining.

The market was positive on Monday as investors were bullish on the promise of the country's ongoing SOE reform, with related stocks outperforming the benchmark. Suning Commerce Group, one of China Unicom's investors, jumped more than 4 percent at one point before trending down in the afternoon.