In October, FinanceAsia named the winners of our inaugural China Awards for best service providers, best transaction banks and solutions, best deals of the year and best banks overall.
In a four-part series, we will explain the rationale behind our decisions to award institutions that contributed to the positive development of China's capital markets. This is the third part of the series.
In part three, FinanceAsia is thrilled to announce the winners of the awards for the best equity and debt deal in 2017-2018.
Deals throughout the review period were many and varied, and we are delighted to reveal this year's winners and why we believe they deserve their victory this year.
FinanceAsia's China Awards 2018 is organised in collaboration with CorporateTreasurer, our sister publication.
Please note that advisors and service provider data has been taken from either Bloomberg or Dealogic data.
DEAL OF THE YEAR: ANT FINANCIAL'S $14 BILLION SERIES C FUNDING
Few start-ups in Asia have withstood the “winter chill” in the capital markets this year. An exception has been Jack Ma’s Ant Financial, the operator of China’s largest online payment platform. The company shrugged off the choppiness in the market, and raised $14 billion through its latest fundraising round in June.
The exercise amounted to the largest confirmed single fundraising round in history, according to data provider Crunchbase. And it will boost the company’s war chest ahead of an anticipated IPO, which could come as soon as next year, sources close to the deal told FinanceAsia.
The funding included both US dollar and renminbi tranches. The dollar share made up over $10 billion, with a list of star-studded investors like Singaporean sovereign wealth funds GIC and Temasek, as well as US private equity firm Warburg Pincus.
Ant did not release any public details of its valuation after the funding round, but sources familiar with the deal now value Ant Financial at around $155 billion. This makes it one of the world’s most valuable financial firms.
BEST M&A DEAL: MEITUAN'S $2.7 BILLION ACQUISITION OF MOBIKE
This is a difficult award to judge because there are plenty of solid M&A cases throughout the year. Meituan’s $2.7 billion acquisition of Mobike, however, caught our attention because it has speeded up a much-needed consolidation in China’s on-demand online services industry, which relies heavily on subsidies to get customers.
The acquisition of Mobike helped Tencent-backed Meituan, which provides everything from food delivery to car-hailing services, solidify its position in the on-demand business, and has given the company a clear advantage over its major rival Ele.me in terms of market share.
Standing in pole position in the fiercely competitive on-demand market, the deal presented investors with a more convincing story to tell, ahead of its $4.2 billion Hong Kong float in September, the city’s second-largest IPO of the year.
First starting as a Groupon-like group purchase site, Meituan has emerged as the go-to platform for food ordering after it merged with restaurant review app Dianping in late 2015.
Target advisor: China Renaissance. Legal Advisors: Fangda Law
Acquirer legal advisors: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
BEST CROSS-BORDER M&A DEAL: GLOBAL LOGISTIC PROPERTIES’ $11.6 BILLION PRIVATISATION DEAL
China’s outbound investments into the US are getting considerably more regulatory scrutiny thanks to escalating trade tensions. This investment in a Singapore-listed logistic powerhouse, however, has been given the nod by regulators.
The investor group, which includes Hillhouse Capital and Hopu Investment Management, bought Singapore-based warehouse operator Global Logistic Property for about $12 billion and wins the award for being a swift and clear deal on the back of rising political and regulatory hurdles in the world of cross-border transactions.
On top of that, the takeover of GLP was larger than the 2016 takeover of Qihoo 360 Technology from the US market, making it the largest-ever buyout of an Asian company.
Singapore-listed GLP, which has a $39 billion portfolio of assets across China, Japan, Brazil and the US, is benefiting from a rising demand for logistics facilities that is being driven by a boom in e-commerce from clients such as Adidas, Amazon and JD.com.
Target advisors: BAML, JP Morgan, Evercore Partners
Acquirer advisors: CICC, Citi, CITIC, DBS, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS
Legal advisors: Kirkland & Ellis, Clifford Chance, Morrison & Foerster, Allen & Gledhill, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Morgan Lewis, Rajah & Tann
BEST EQUITY DEAL: SENSETIME’S $1.22 BILLION SERIES C FUNDING
In May, Beijing-based artificial intelligence (AI) company SenseTime raised $620 million in fresh funds from prominent investors including Fidelity International, Hopu Capital, Silver Lake and Tiger Global.
This was just one month after the start-up said that it had raised $600 million in funds from Alibaba, Chinese retailer Suning.com and Singapore state investment firm Temasek Holdings.
Last year, SenseTime raised $410 million in funds. In total, the start-up now has capital of more than $1.6 billion and is valued at more than $4.5 billion, which makes it one of the most valuable AI start-ups in the world.
SenseTime has more than 700 strategic partners and customers including Chinese telecommunications giant China Mobile as well as Huawei and Xiaomi. It has also inked a deal with China's largest subway operator, Shanghai Shentong Metro Group, to use AI to monitor metro traffic. SenseTime provides a real-time snapshot of traffic on the system that prevents hold-ups.
The company has also teamed up with Alibaba and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park to create the HK AI Laboratory. This aims at transforming Hong Kong into an innovation hub, and highlights the group’s commitment to research and development for Hong Kong’s start-ups.
BEST IPO: FOXCONN INDUSTRIAL INTERNET'S $4.2 BILLION SHANGHAI IPO
China’s domestic listing market is notorious for a long queue of IPO hopefuls. But Taiwan’s Foxconn Industrial Internet (FII) whizzed through the approval process with the regulator in only five weeks, when most companies spend at least a year to clear queries from the CSRC, the country’s securities regulator.
The speedy approval process underscores China’s growing desire to upgrade its supply chain from low-end to smart manufacturing of higher-margin widgets, from servers to Internet-of-Things devices.
Rising on the back of Apple’s ascendancy for the past decade, the Hon Hai Precision Industry unit has been asked to develop advanced robots for manufacturing to boost productivity and the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications.
FII raised Rmb27.1 billion ($4.2 billion) through the Shanghai float in June, making it the largest mainland IPO since 2015. The Hon Hai Precision Industry unit drew an impressive list of investors for the share sale, including tech powerhouses Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.
FII’s IPO ranks as the fourth largest in the mainland over the past 10 years, and is outpaced only by China State Construction Engineering, which raised $7.3 billion in 2009; China Railway Construction, which sold shares worth $5.7 billion in 2008; and Guotai Junan Securities, which raised $4.8 billion in 2015.
Sole Sponsor: CICC
Advisors: CICC, Guosen Securities
Lawyers: Ogier, Fangda, King & Wood
BEST FINANCIAL INSTITUTION BOND: CENTRAL HUIJIN'S RMB 15 BILLION DUAL-TRANCH BOND
State-owned Chinese investment company Central Huijin raised Rmb15 billion ($2.2 billion) from a dual-tranche bond sale in April. It was a first for the company to sell bonds to foreign investors through the Bond Connect.
The successful sale of two-year and a three-year paper represents the country’s continuing efforts to woo foreign investors to its $10 trillion domestic bond market, the world’s third-largest after the US and Japan. It also paves the way for Beijing to play a bigger role in the global capital markets, according to a Beijing-based banker at Bank of China, one of the lead underwriters of the transaction.
The demand for the two-year tranche (Huijin’s first-ever issuance in such a tenor, as it seeks to diversity its maturity profile) was 3.3 times oversubscribed, while the longer-dated three-year paper was 2.4 times oversold to investors. Foreign investors took 23% of the two-year paper, while they were allocated 15% for the three-year tranche.
In the end the Rmb3 billion two-year tranche priced at par to yield 4.5% while the Rmb12 billion three-year tranche also priced at par to yield 4.58%.
Central Huijin, an investment unit of sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corp, is the government holding vehicle for state-owned financial companies such as Bank of China and ICBC.
Underwriters: Bank of China and China Everbright Bank
BEST CORPORATE BOND: SF EXPRESS'S RMB 800 MILLION BOND SALE
SF Express, sometimes dubbed as the Chinese version of Fedex, bucked the negative sentiment in China’s onshore bond market with an upsized three-year bond in August 2018, which boosted investor confidence in the domestic corporate credit market.
The Shenzhen-listed company, which is rated triple A by China Chengxin, the country’s largest rating agency, originally planned to raise Rmb500 million ($72.1 million), but it had to upsize the issuance to Rmb800 million after the order book was almost five times oversubscribed by investors.
To be sure, the express delivery company doesn’t need the cash, but a successful bond sale by SF helped to stabilize the uncertainty in the market, which has been battered by a rise in default situations in various industries since the start of the year. SF has been in a net cash position for at least the past two financial years, its financial statements show.
Advisors: Citic Securities, CSC Financial
BEST GREEN BOND: CGN’S DUAL TRANCHE USD BOND OFFERINGS AND EUR GREEN BOND OFFERING
This year saw China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) make its largest foray into the offshore bond market with its debut dual currency US dollar and euro bond sale as well as its debut green bond issue.
The 10-year $550 million tranche priced more tightly than any other previous CGNPC issue. It went out at 3.750%, while the $350 million 5-year tranche closed at 3.125%.
The €500 million ($577 million) 7-year green bond was the first such bond from the company denominated in euro, and priced at 1.625%, the tight end of guidance.
The company has become one of the few power groups to sell green bonds in the international capital markets. It has fully complied with the regulatory framework laid down by the Green Bond Principles 2017 (GBP). This includes the four components as described by the GBP: use of proceeds; process for project selection; management of proceeds; and reporting.
Further enhancing their green credentials, CGNPC employed international advisory firm Deloitte to confirm that CNGPC’s green bonds management statement conforms to the standards set out in the GBP.
This adherence to regulatory oversight, and the tight pricing achieved by the company have marked it out as our winner of the best green bond award this year.
Global Coordinators: BOC, BNP, Credit Agricole, ICBC
Joint lead managers: ABC, BOC, BNP, China Construction Bank (Asia), China Everbright, CMB International, Credit Agricole, DBS, ICBC, OCBC, Standard Chartered
BEST PRIVATE EQUITY DEAL: SEQUOIA’S INVESTMENT IN PINDUODUO
Beijing-based Sequoia Capital China is a venture capital firm focused on seed stage, mid-stage, late stage, and growth investments in the fintech sector.
Since it was founded in 2005, it has made more than 300 investments including some in heavyweights such as Alibaba, Sina.com, Didi and JD.com. Over the same period it has made 46 exits.
The company began to invest in Pinduoduo, a Chinese online group discounter founded just three years ago, in its Series B funding in July 2016 as part of an initial $110 million fundraising exercise.
In June 2017 it further invested in Pindudoduo during its $213.7 million Series C funding, and then in April this year it participated as a lead investor in Pinduoduo’s $1.4 billion Series D round of financing.
Pinduoduo raised almost $1.9 billion during its July 26 Nasdaq IPO, which valued the young company at around $24 billion.
The prospectus shows that Sequoia retained a 6.8% stake in the company which equates to a $1.63 billion return on investment. This demonstrates not only Sequoia’s undoubted skill at spotting an early disrupter in a highly competitive sector, but also its commitment further to fund start-ups throughout their latter funding rounds.
For this investment, Sequoia wins this year’s best private equity deal.
BEST PANDA BOND: THE PHILIPPINES' RMB $1.46 BILLION THREE-YEAR BOND SALE
The Republic of the Philippines sold its inaugural Panda bond in March this year, and raised Rmb1.46 billion over a three-year maturity.
The country’s debt sale garnered more than Rmb9.22 billion of demand from global investors. Books were covered more than six times making it the largest oversubscription of any sovereign Panda bond to date. That allowed bankers to tighten in pricing to the very low end of the 5% to 5.6% guidance.
The Duterte government said the debt sale was a success because it achieved a tight spread relative to the country’s debt sale in the international bond markets. The renminbi-denominated bond pays a 5% coupon, which is about 2.93% when it is swapped into US dollars. The swap means that the bond priced 23bp below the three-year dollar yield of 3.16%, the government said.
With the Bond Connect scheme, offshore investors made up 87.7% of allocation, which was the highest offshore mix for any panda issuer.
Advisors: Bank of China and Standard Chartered
BEST STRUCTURED FINANCE DEAL: FORD CHINA'S RMB 3.46 BILLION ABS
US carmaker Ford is best known for selling Focus compact cars and Lincoln limousines. Now it's got something new to offer in China.
It has become first foreign issuer to sell asset-backed securities through Bond Connect, the new bond trading link between Hong Kong and the mainland, and raised Rmb3.46 billion ($518 million) from the sale in August.
The renminbi-denominated deal underscores the rapid acceleration of auto-loan securitisation in China, where foreign and domestic car manufacturers, including BMW China and Dengfeng Motor, sold $6.23 billion of structured products in the first seven months of the year, up 42% on the same period last year, according to data from Wind.
The transaction comprises three tranches. The most senior tranche is a Rmb3.32 billion Class A note with a yield of 4.65%, or 30bp over the People’s Bank of China’s one-year lending rate. The Rmb144 million Class B notes pay 4.95%, or 60bp over the benchmark rate.
The subordinated Rmb304 million paper, about 8% of the deal value, was retained by the issuer. Global regulators have required ABS issuers to hold at least 5% of any deal since the 2008 financial crisis. In most cases, ABS issuers retain the most subordinated tranche in order to bolster investor confidence.
According to Moody’s, the average yield on Chinese auto-loan ABS has risen to mid-5% from 3% in the middle of 2016. This reflects the central bank’s moves to rein in credit growth amid concerns over a property bubble.
Advisors: Standard Chartered, China Merchants Securities, BOC and HSBC China