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ZhongAn makes stunning debut

By Zhou Mo in Beijing and Evelyn Yu in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-29 08:09

ZhongAn makes stunning debut

ZhongAn Online Property and Casualty Insurance Co Ltd Chairman Ou Yaping (left) and Chief Executive Officer Chen Jin attend the debut of the company at the Hong Kong Exchanges. [Photo/Agencies]

ZhongAn Online Property and Casualty Insurance Co Ltd saw its share price surge 15.6 percent to open at HK$69($8.83) on its first day of trading.

The mainland's first internet-only insurer captured the imagination of investors who have high expectations of the emerging "new economy" sector.

ZhongAn went public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange's main board on Thursday after 199 million shares were offered at HK$59.7 per share.

"ZhongAn is a young company and still has a long way to go," said Chen Jin, CEO of ZhongAn. "The listing means a new starting point for the company."

The firm is 13.8 percent owned by Jack Ma's Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, 10.4 percent by Tencent Holdings Ltd, whose CEO is Pony Ma, and 10 percent by Ping An Insurance Group Co, whose chairman is Ma Mingzhe.

SoftBank Group Corp, a cornerstone investor, holds almost 5 percent.

"Today, technology and internet are changing the world in a profound way," Chen said. "As the first fintech (or financial technology) company to list in Hong Kong, ZhongAn will give more confidence to other players in this ecology."

Li Xiaojia, CEO of Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd, was excited to see the company listed in Hong Kong.

But he stressed the city should make efforts to improve its market structure to entice more firms from the "new economy" sector.

Still, Linus Yip Sheungchi, chief strategist of First Shanghai Securities, was not surprised that ZhongAn made such an outstanding debut.

Technically, the firm does not fit squarely into the "new economy" sector.

"But the market is willing to give it a high valuation as an internet company due to the celebrity effect brought by the lineup of star-studded shareholders such as Pony Ma and Jack Ma," he said.

"ZhongAn's stock price is very high now," Yip added. "Whether the price can be supported really depends on future earnings of the company and how it can make a difference through the synergy of its star shareholders to outperform traditional insurers."

Founded in 2013, the Shanghai-based company has sold 7.2 billion insurance policies by the end of last year.

On Thursday, ZhongAn shares jumped 9.21 percent to close at HK$65.2.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

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