February 6, 2013
Since China first announced its plans to launch an International Board several years ago, a group of overseas-based companies that do big business in China have been waiting patiently to list on the board to raise both cash and their profiles on the mainland. Many of those companies were genuine foreign firms, such as banking giants HSBC (HKEx: 5; London: HSBA) and Standard Chartered (HKEx: 2888; London: STAN); but an equally large group were Chinese companies like mobile carrier China Mobile (HKEx: 941; NYSE: CHL) and PC maker Lenovo (HKEx: 992), which incorporated overseas so they could list their shares in Hong Kong.
Despite reporting solid profit growth, telecoms software maker AsiaInfo’s (Nasdaq: ASIA) latest quarterly earnings report was more significant for what it did NOT contain, namely any mention of an ongoing plan to sell the company. Does this mean the deal is dead? In my view, the lack of any news on what once looked like a lively bidding war could indeed mean that buyers are no longer interested in AsiaInfo, perhaps because the company’s financials weren’t as attractive as many thought they might be or because the company wanted too big a premium for its shares.
I don’t know about other people, but I’m getting increasingly tired of China Mobile’s (HKEx: 941; NYSE: CHL) non-stop string of word games as it aggressively pushes the country’s telecoms regulator to quickly issue 4G licenses that will allow it to offer a commercial 4G wireless service. But perhaps my frustration would be more appropriately directed at the telecoms regulator itself, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), whose massive bureaucracy means it often takes ridiculously long periods to approve just about anything, putting China’s telecoms market at a major disadvantage to global peers.