ePRO, 36.com join race for IPO dollars as market shrinks

ePro and 36.com join the race for investor dollars, as companies abandon their high aims and prepare to accept any price.

In the fourth and fifth months of this year, as the market for technology stocks soured, it was common to hear companies and their bankers declare they wanted to list their shares but would not sell "at just any price". ColbyNet, a Hong Kong sourcing company, Singapore-based portal Catcha.com, run by a young man barely out of his teens, among others postponed their listings rather than sell " on the cheap".

Today companies are showing more willingness not just to sell but to sell at any price. Last week Grandmass Enterprise Solutions became the first to sell stock on Hong Kong's Growth Enterprise Market for less than HK$1 a share. Others are following, with Panda-Recruit, an online job-hunting service dropping as low as HK$0.26 to HK$0.30 a share.

Lining up in the under-a-dollar stakes is 36.com, an operator of Chinese language vertical (or subject-specific) internet portals. 36.com is offering 280 million shares at HK$0.36 each to raise HK$100.8 million ($12.9 million). It is also offering one warrant to every successful subscriber. The warrant has an initial subscription price of HK$0.40 and is valid for two years. 36.com is willing to give anything a try. The company lost HK$17 million in the year ending 31 March 2000. It made just HK$2.8 million ($359,112) in revenue. Trading in the shares and warrants begins 28 July. The sale is being managed by Worldsec International.

Electronic solutions provider ePro Limited is going the dollar-plus route. The information technology company is offering 221 million shares at between HK$1.10 and HK$1.30 to raise up to HK$287.3 million. Shares are set to begin trading on the Growth Enterprise Market on 27 July. ePro's advantage is that it makes things that make internet companies work. The company produces custom-made software applications that help users conduct business online. It is currently developing applications to help companies manage logistics, billing and trading online.

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