Freshfields wins magic circle battle for HK IPO

Freshfields' Hong Kong office has beaten magic circle rivals to win a mandate to advise China Telecom Corp in the largest initial public offering (IPO) seen in the Hong Kong market this year.

China's largest fixed-line phone company plans to raise up to $3.68bn (£2.37bn) by issuing approximately 16.8 billion shares, which are to be listed on the Hong Kong and New York stock exchanges. The IPO is taking place at a time when investor confidence is running dangerously low because of concerns about the state of the global economy.

Allen & Overy, Freshfields, Linklaters and Slaughter and May competed to secure the instructions. Freshfields' success may have been due to its strong track record on share offers in the telecoms sector. The firm worked on the China Mobile and China Unicorn IPOs, which were part of the former Ministry of Post and Telecommunications.

The Freshfields team is being led by corporate partners Teresa Ko and Kay Ian Ng, assisted by senior associate Peter Chen. Slaughters is providing Hong Kong law advice to joint financial advisers and underwriters Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and China International Capital Corp. Corporate partner Benita Yu and senior associate Paul Chow are also working on the deal.

Each side also has US law advisers – Sullivan & Cromwell, led by partner Wei Chun, is acting for China Telecom and Shearman & Sterling partner Matthew Bersani for the underwriters.

China Telecom kicked off roadshows for the IPO last week. Its shares are expected to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange on 6 November and the following day in Hong Kong. In an attempt to sweeten investors, the company is proposing to pay a dividend of 65 Hong Kong cents per share this year and next.