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Circuit breakers trip as China's Nasdaq-style bourse debuts

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Circuit breakers trip as China's Nasdaq-style bourse debuts
A sign for STAR Market, China's new Nasdaq-style tech board, is seen before the listing ceremony of the first batch of companies at Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) in Shanghai, China July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer   -   Copyright  CHINA STRINGER NETWORK(Reuters)
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By Andrew Galbraith and Samuel Shen

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Trading hit a feverish pitch on China’s new Nasdaq-style board for homegrown tech firms on its debut on Monday, with most stocks surging and drawing attention away from the main board.

All of the first batch of 25 companies – ranging from chip-makers to biotech firms – more than doubled their already frothy IPO prices on the STAR Market, operated by the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Trading in Anji Microelectronics Technology (Shanghai) Co Ltd <688019.SS>, a semiconductor firm, was halted twice as the company’s shares hit two circuit breakers – first after rising 30%, then after climbing 60% from the market open – designed to calm frenzied buying.

By the midday break, Anji shares had leapt 415% from their IPO price.

Suzhou Harmontronics Automation Technology Co Ltd <688022.SS>, however, triggered its circuit breaker in the opposite direction, falling 30% from the market open, before rebounding. But by midday the company’s shares were still 113% higher than their IPO price.

Monday’s spiralling share prices and high volatility on the STAR Market were anticipated as investors chased the new board, said Zhu Junchun, chief analyst with Lianxun Securities.

Investor focus on the STAR Market in the short term could weigh on the main board in terms of liquidity and attention, he said.

That effect was clear on Monday, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index <.SSEC> dipping 0.57% by midday, and the blue-chip CSI300 index <.CSI300> trading flat.

SSE said that an index tracking the STAR Market will be launched on the 11th trading day following the debut of the 30th company on the board.

Modeled after Nasdaq, and complete with a U.S-style IPO system, STAR may be China’s boldest attempt at capital market reforms yet. It is also seen driven by Beijing’s ambition to become technologically self-reliant as a prolonged trade war with Washington catches Chinese tech firms in the cross-fire.

Even veterans of China’s notoriously volatile stock markets had braced for a wild opening day on the new board, after initial public offerings (IPOs) were oversubscribed by an average of about 1,700 times among retail investors.

(Reporting by Samuel Shen, Luoyan Liu, Andrew Galbraith and Winni Zhou; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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