China’s dominance of Asian G3 bonds underpins The Asset Triple A Country Awards, North Asia

Green bonds prominent theme at this year’s Country Awards

AS one senior debt capital markets (DCM) banker recalls, the total issuance in the Asian G3 bond market in 2006 was about US$44 billion, and Chinese issuers were largely missing during those days.

Incidentally, half of this amount actually represented just one deal from the equity capital markets (ECM) at that time, when Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) launched its initial public offering and raised US$21.9 billion.

Fast-forward to 2017 and Chinese issuers have basically taken over the Asian G3 bond market. According to Thomson Reuters, the total issuance volume of Asian G3 bonds, outside of Japan and Australia, stood at over US$307.32 billion as of December 1 this year, which already exceeded the 2016 record of US$218.84 billion. Of the total volume, China accounted for 50%, or US$153.82 billion, which also surpassed their full 2016 tally of US$94.78 billion.

Indeed, Chinese issuers are now driving the Asian G3 bond market, underpinned by their large capital requirements. Two of the largest deals this year are from China – the US$7.25 billion additional tier 1 capital securities by Postal Savings Bank of China (PSBC) and the US$7 billion multi-tranche bonds by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, whose demand was estimated to have topped US$40 billion and included a tenor of 40 years.

The PSBC deal is one of several transactions that defined the Asian G3 bond market and the Greater China DCM landscape in 2017, as the board of editors went through the rigorous exercise of reviewing the best deals for The Asset Triple A Country Awards 2017. Several themes are prevalent during the period that appeal to investor appetite, while issuers take advantage of cheaper funding costs amid the wall of liquidity.

Green bonds continue to attract the interest of issuers. China Three Gorges Corporation printed a 650-million-euro (US$774 million) green bond representing the first Chinese green bond to gain certification under the Climate Bond Standard. ICBC (Luxembourg) priced a US$2.15 billion equivalent maiden green bond, representing the first Belt and Road climate bond.

Korea Development launched its inaugural green bond in June amounting to US$300 million, choosing a floating rate note instrument to garner the broadest investor reception.

Perpetual bonds, which have now become an institutional-driven market, are also popular among issuers in markets such as Hong Kong. The FWD Group pushed the envelope further, so to speak, in this asset class when it priced in June a zero-coupon subordinated perpetual structure amounting to US$500 million. The first of its kind in the market, this is a new template for the hybrid market that can be accessed by corporates and select insurance companies alike.

The ECM space was equally very active this year with a total volume of US$228.84 billion as of December 1, based on figures from Thomson Reuters. This was up 53.4% from the US$149.20 billion recorded for the whole of 2016. Many IPOs have traded much better, as one banker points out, enabling investors to make money, and this in turn underpins more ECM issuances in the market.

This is exemplified by fintech company ZhongAn Online P&C Insurance Company, voted as the Best IPO in China, whose share price has traded as high as HK$97.80, compared with the offer price of HK$59.70 when it launched its IPO in September this year. The stock was still up 20% at HK$71.60 when the market closed on December 1.

As the first large-scale fintech company listing in Hong Kong, ZhongAn demonstrates the diversity of companies coming into the market. It is no longer one-dimensional Chinese state-owned enterprises, brokers and banks, but also healthcare and TMT type issuers, among others.

In Korea, for instance, Celltrion Healthcare Company, selected as the Best Korean IPO, successfully priced its US$887 million share sale, representing the largest non-Japan Asia healthcare IPO in 2017 and the largest in KOSDAQ IPO history. Its stock price has more than doubled to 89,800 won (US$82.40) as of December 1, compared with its offer price of 41,000 won, which was at the top-end of the range after generating a robust response from all types of investors.

The M&A market saw a robust deal flow from private equity firms and one of the deals that stood out this year was the US$6.8 billion privatization of Belle International by a consortium comprising Hillhouse Capital, CDH Investments and the company’s management. This was the largest ever private equity sponsors-led privatization in Asia-Pacific and the largest ever all-cash privatization on the Hong Kong exchange.

The long-awaited approval of the US$43 billion Syngenta acquisition by China National Chemical Corporation finally happened in May this year as the complex transaction involved regulatory approvals in multiple jurisdictions, including the US, Europe and Switzerland.

In terms of winning houses, Citi swept the awards for Best bank (Global) in China, Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, as well as the Best corporate and institutional bank (Global) in China and Taiwan.

HSBC is dominant in its home market of Hong Kong, winning the Best corporate and institutional bank (Global), Best bond adviser (global) and Best loan adviser, while CCB International was selected as Best corporate and institutional bank (Domestic) and Best equity adviser.

Credit Suisse scoops the honours for Best M&A adviser in China and Korea and Best corporate and institutional bank (Global) in Korea.

Yuanta Securities scores big in Taiwan, winning awards in three categories – Best Corporate and institutional bank (Domestic), Best equity adviser and Best bond adviser for NT dollar – while Yuanta Futures was voted as Best brokerage.

E.Sun wins the Best bank (Domestic) award for the third year in a row and retains the Best bond adviser for Formosa bond, while CTBC Bank secures the accolades for Best loan adviser for the third consecutive year and the Best debt adviser, which it last won in 2014.


For the full list of winners, please click here for Best Deals, North Asia.

For the full list of winners, please click here for Best Houses, North Asia.