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HK firms queue up to list on Nasdaq: official
By Sean Kennedy

CAPTION: Screens in the MarketSite room at New York's Nasdaq, a magnet for more than 50 Hong Kong companies which have expressed interest in initial public offerings on the technology index.

STORY: HONG KONG companies are queuing up for Nasdaq listings, the technology index's executive vice president and chief information officer (CIO) Gregor Bailar said yesterday.

Speaking after addressing a sometimes lively two-hour session on electronic commerce issues at the Asia CIO Symposium, Mr Bailar said more than 50 companies had expressed interest in initial public offerings (IPOs) on Nasdaq during his visit.

Mr Bailar said he was impressed with the achievements of Hong Kong in building up its technology sector in a relatively short time.

``It's definitely a seat of entrepreneurialism and innovation,'' he said, citing Pacific Century CyberWorks (PCCW), as evidence of what relatively new technology start-ups could achieve in a short time.

Last Tuesday, PCCW clinched a deal with a proposal valuing C&W HKT at up to $296.3 billion, edging out the venerable and deep-pocketed Singapore Telecommunications and its ally, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, in the process.

Mr Bailar said Hong Kong was setting the pace as its corporate sector entered the technology race.

``I would very much rate Hong Kong as one of the top countries and centres in the world right now,'' he said.

``We are seeing companies coming out of Hong Kong that are setting innovation standards,'' he added.

He said he sees great potential for the mainland as well.

Mr Bailar also praised Hong Kong's efforts to develop an alternative to the main board through setting up the Growth Enterprise Market (GEM).

He said the public should have patience with the GEM as it evolves, and fine-tunes to meet local circumstances.

``I think innovation sometimes has to be given the room to grow,'' Mr Bailar said.

But there will inevitably be teething problems and the occasional hiccup as the GEM develops, he said.

``I hope people don't get queasy early on and lose stamina. They should have faith and the leadership,'' Mr Bailar said.

Mr Bailar warned against trying to use an overseas template or blueprint and impose it on the Hong Kong market, which had its own requirements.

Hong Kong's GEM has come under fire in recent weeks after the stock exchange decided to waive some requirements for Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa, the controlling shareholders of Tom.com, and for Tom.com itself.

Tom.com's IPO, one of the most popular IPOs in Hong Kong's history, forced authorities to call out police to control crowds of tens of thousands of profit-hungry investors who swamped receiving banks with applications.

The GEM also came under fire this week from businessman Edward Chow, whose company has been seeking a listing on the GEM, but has been in limbo since late last year.

In a column in the Hong Kong Standard on Monday, Mr Chow said the GEM was set up to help small and medium-sized companies raise capital, but was not achieving this aim.

Mr Chow said the GEM listing rules left a good deal to be desired and accused the listing division of ``simultaneously functioning as policemen, judge and jury for as long as they consider necessary. The situation is undesirable and should be urgently looked at,'' Mr Chow said.


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