China Unicom shares skyrocket as government OK's reform plan

Updated 2017-08-22 11:00:29 China Daily
The booth of China Unicom at an industry expo in Beijing. (Chen Xiaogen / for China Daily)

The booth of China Unicom at an industry expo in Beijing. (Chen Xiaogen / for China Daily)

The .7 billion ownership reform plan of China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd, the country's second-largest mobile carrier by subscribers, has been approved by the country's securities authority, causing shares of its two listed units to skyrocket on Monday.

China Unicom's Shanghai-listed unit plans to raise funds from more than a dozen major investors with 35.19 percent of shares, including Tencent Holdings Ltd, Baidu Inc, and Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd, as part of the country's broad push to revitalize State-owned companies with private money.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission said in a statement late on Sunday that it fully recognized the importance of China Unicom's mixed-ownership reform.

"After going through the legal procedures with the National Development and Reform Commission and other departments, we will treat China Unicom's private placement plan as an exceptional case," CSRC said.

In February, the securities regulator unveiled new rules requiring that private share sales be capped at 20 percent of existing shares and that prices must be determined on the day of issuance. If not for the waiver, China Unicom's deal would violate those rules.

China United Network Communications Ltd, the group's Shanghai-listed unit, climbed by the 10 percent daily limit to 8.22 yuan (.23) on Monday. Its Hong Kong-listed branch intraday shares climbed as much as 11 percent to HK.24 (.69).

Shen Meng, director of boutique investment bank Chanson & Co, said the China Unicom deal will serve as the model for future SOE reforms.

"In the coming months, more SOEs will push forward mixed ownership reforms. Their private placement plans are also highly likely to be immune to the current 20 percent limits, highlighting China's determination to rejuvenate SOEs," Shen said.

According to Li Jin, chief researcher at the China Enterprise Research Institute, more SOE reform plans are expected to be approved within the third quarter of this year, as the coal, steel, heavy equipment and thermal power sectors will become top priorities.

Late on Sunday, China Unicom also broke down more details of its reform, after the plan was initially announced on Wednesday.

The company said it would raise 61.73 billion yuan in a private placement. Moreover, it plans to transfer 12.98 billion yuan of shares to a fund and issue 3.21 billion yuan worth of shares to core employees.

Guosen Securities said in a research note that luring in top internet heavyweights will boost China Unicom's competence in big data technology and help it expand the company's user base.

"But these strategic investors are too fragmented in terms of their industries and shares," Guosen said.

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