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Thousands mob banks for ICBC IPO

Thousands mob banks for ICBC IPO

Thousands of people across Hong Kong flocked to banks yesterday in a rush to buy into what could be the world's largest initial public offering from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
Although investors were allowed to apply for the listing on the Internet for the first time, it did not stop many of them queuing up for application forms and a prospectus on the first day of the float's retail launch.
By early morning, over two hundred people were queuing hours before the banks' opening in the industrial Kwun Tong area in Kowloon district as bank staff kept emptying boxes of forms and prospectus.
Many people on the streets of the Central financial district were also seen clutching a few forms in their hands.
Three million application forms have been published for the IPO, in which China's largest lender may raise more than US$20 billion, trumping the US$18.4 billion offer by Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo in 1998.
"This is the focus (of) the world. I cannot miss it. Everyone is applying for it. You can't possibly lose money here. It's like HSBC, you never lose if you put money in that bank," said 45-year-old architect Michael Cheung.
China's sizzling economic growth and the overhaul of its banking sector has fueled a huge international appetite for ICBC, which on October 27 will become the latest in a recent crop of Chinese lenders to list on overseas exchanges.
Bank of China listed in Hong Kong in June, and then in Shanghai in July, while smaller banks such as China Merchants Bank held its IPO last month in the former British colony.
The lender is the third of China's big four banks to list offshore after China Construction Bank, which floated in Hong Kong last year.
Many individual investors see it as a quick money-making opportunity.
"I have made a little bit pocket money with the Bank of China listing. I hope this will make me more money this time," said Iui Ong-kam, 58-year-old housewife who picked up six forms for her family.
Cheung Sang, 70-year-old retired teacher hoped to make short-term gains.
"I have confidence in the bank but I don't expect it to make me much money first of all. I do this for short-term investment.
"But I believe in the potential of the bank development because of China's strong economic growth. I hope it will be able to do as good as other top banks in the U.S. and Japan," he said.
ICBC, which has some US$800 billion in assets, has set a price of HK$2.56 to HK$3.07 (US$0.33 to US$0.39) for its offer in Hong Kong of 35.4 billion H-shares, which could be raised to 40.7 billion H-shares.