"This is a good time for Hong Kong investors to participate in the excitement of our products," Victor Li, chairman of CK Life and son of Li Ka-shing, told reporters at a news briefing.
The shares, to be sold for between HK $1.80 and HK $2.00, will begin trading on Hong Kong’s second board Growth Enterprise Market on July 16. The net proceeds of between HK $2.5 billion to HK $2.8 billion will be used primarily for research, development, and marketing, and the company said it expects to have spent half of that by the end of 2004.
CK Life is a spin-off of Li’s property flagship Cheung Kong (Holdings) and is generating attention largely because of its association with him. Li’s investing acumen and rags-to-riches story have made him a local hero.
However, a more sober market in 2002 is unlikely to make CK Life an encore of Li’s Internet punt tom.com. That IPO triggered near-riots here two years ago as eager retail investors sought to buy into Li’s web venture.
"There is still a lot of uncertainty in the market right now. Nobody knows about biotech, we don’t see any track record from CK Life," said Herbert Lau, research director at Celestial Asia Securities.
Hong Kong has little in the way of a biotech sector, and stock investors in the territory are better known for momentum-driven trading than for having a long-term investment horizon.
"I am confident in the future of this company," Li told reporters at a news briefing.
CK Life Sciences, which lost HK $57.93 million in 2001 on turnover of HK $148,000, makes and sells a fertiliser product and is developing nutritional supplements, drugs and skincare products.
"The group expects losses to continue for at least several years," according to the listing prospectus. The company said it has lost HK $217.6 million for the two-and-one-quarter years through March 31.
The company on Tuesday said it had recently filed 12 new patent applications for potential pharmaceutical products, including one to treat AIDS and 10 potential health supplements.
"Still, there is not much of an investment alternative at the moment because of the uncertain market conditions, especially overseas. That’s why CK Life can still attract investor attention," Lau said, predicting the market will easily absorb the shares on offer. "There are still a lot of followers for Mr Li’s camp, especially for new issues," Lau added. The company’s public float would be 20 per cent upon listing, barring the exercise of an overallotment option of some 159 million IPO shares if demand proves strong.