China makes its debut on LSE with Simmons' help

Lawyers from Simmons & Simmons raised their glasses at the London Stock Exchange last week at a private party to celebrate the first UK listing of a Chinese company.

The firm advised Chinese power generating company Beijing Datang on its $400m flotation by placing on the London Stock Exchange. Lead partner Colin Leaver said Datang's listing could herald the arrival of many more Chinese companies.

“Several companies we are advising are looking seriously at the London Stock Exchange and are keeping a close eye on how Beijing Datang fares. It's doing well so far – shares are trading well above the issue price.”

The flotation was made possible by a memorandum of understanding signed between regulators and exchanges in the UK and China last October.

“We had been advising Beijing Datang since it was formed in 1994,” said Leaver. “We looked then at floating in London but there were too many difficulties. The memorandum eased the way.”

Beijing Datang was one of nine public companies that the Chinese government identified for possible partial flotations overseas in 1994.

It retains 70 per cent of the equity.

Four Chinese companies have already listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but Leaver said that although the shares had traded well at first “people lost interest, and the price dropped”.

He said Chinese shares stood a better chance on the London Exchange “because it's historically much more of an international exchange. New York is more domestic”.

Datang has also listed on the Hong Kong exchange and on New York under a 144A arrangement, whereby foreign firms are open to institutional investors only.

The London Stock Exchange, said Leaver, was extremely co-operative and allowed the lawyers to follow what had been done in previous Hong Kong listings of Chinese companies.

Simmons' Beijing and Hong Kong offices also worked on the listing in Hong Kong. Slaughter and May advised the London and Hong Kong sponsors Kleinwort Benson and Morgan Stanley on English and Hong Kong law while Davis Polk & Wardwell advised on US law.

Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy advised the company on US law.