US travel giant Ctrip looks for secondary Hong Kong listing

FILE PHOTO: The name of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited in Hong Kong, China January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Bobby Yip/File Photo

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – US-listed online travel giant Ctrip is talking to banks about a planned secondary listing in Hong Kong, putting the group at the head of a queue of Chinese companies expected to follow Alibaba in establishing an investor base closer to China.

Ctrip, also known as Group Ltd, has approached China International Capital Corp, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley for its planned share sale in Hong Kong, said four people with knowledge of the matter.

Ctrip, which had declined to comment earlier, late on Friday said: “The specific details of the listing reported are not true. The company does not have plans yet for a secondary listing.”

No banks have been mandated, and more banks may be involved, the sources said.

CICC, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.

China’s largest online travel firm looks to sell at least 10% of its shares as early as the first half of the year, said two of the people who declined to be named as the information was private.

Based on Ctrip’s latest market value of $20.6 billion on Nasdaq, that would help it to raise at least $2 billion. But the sources said the deal was still in the early stages and the details were subject to change.

The move comes weeks after the successful $12.9 billion secondary listing of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in Hong Kong in November, which was the city’s largest deal since 2010 and the world’s biggest ever cross-border secondary listing.

Charles Li, chief executive of bourse operator Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing, said this week at a Reuters BreakingViews event that he was confident more U.S.-listed companies would follow Alibaba.

“I think just by their nature they will come, because their customers know them and they will potentially get a better valuation re-rate if your customer know your business and wants to become your shareholder,” he said, noting too that adding Chinese shareholders could help to balance U.S. investor views.

“A different shareholder base means that you are hedged because the Chinese are going to look at the world very differently from the western investors and as a company you want people to have different views,” he added.

Co-founded in 1999 by Chinese businessman Liang Jianzhang, Ctrip first went public on Nasdaq in 2003, as part of an early wave of Chinese tech companies lured by high valuations overseas, at a time when domestic markets were a fraction of their current size.

Both the HKEX and its mainland Chinese counterparts have been trying to coax such companies to their home markets to give Chinese investors access to these fast-growing businesses that have traditionally opted to list in New York.

Apart from Ctrip, US-listed Chinese tech companies, including NetEase Inc and Baidu Inc, have also had preliminary discussions with the HKEX about the possibility of a secondary listing in the city, said a separate person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Baidu and the HKEX declined to comment. NetEase did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Julie Zhu, Kane Wu and Jennifer Hughes in Hong Kong, Zhang Yan in Beijing; Additional reporting by Yingzhi Yang in Beijing. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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