Campaign: Air China builds global support for IPO - Financial PR

Campaign: Air China IPO

Client: Air China

PR team: Citigate Dewe Rogerson

Timescale: September-December 2004

Budget: Less than £50,000

The air industry of China, which is gearing up for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, has seen huge growth in domestic and international business. Last year, state flag carrier Air China announced an IPO, planning to use the proceeds for investment in ten Airbus and four Boeing aircraft. Citigate Dewe Rogerson handled financial PR for simultaneous Hong Kong and London Stock Exchange listings.

Objectives

To ensure Air China's IPO offer was oversubscribed. To achieve a minimum starting price for the shares at HK$2.35 (16p).

Strategy and Plan

CDR's Beijing and Hong Kong offices led the planning. Because of strict Chinese limitations on the marketing of share offerings, the team's media relations activities were confined to the day on which Air China announced the deal's subscription level - 14 December - and the following day, when share trading began.

From September, the airline emphasised its strong presence in Europe, its position in China's fast-growing economy, and the expected growth in business travel and tourism to the country.

CDR helped to set up and train an investor relations department for Air China and planned the logistics of managing the IPO story internationally.

With a focus on financial and business media - primarily national newspapers - the team worked on the assumption that the news would break in Asia and be picked up later by the UK media.

CDR's London office presented the story as a Chinese company coming to Europe, emphasising the size of the deal. To Chinese and Hong Kong media, it pushed the angle of the IPO's size in the context of other regional offerings.

When Air China vice-chairman Shi Xiang Wang opened the trade of Air China shares at the LSE, the exchange's atrium display was doctored to spell out 'Air China'. The team used photography of the event, including images of Air China crew and a model plane, to promote the story to the media.

Measurement and Evaluation

The first day of trading attracted coverage in The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent on Sunday, as well as air time on BBC World. In Asia, the story appeared in the South China Morning Post and the Asian Wall Street Journal, and on Chinese state TV. The story also attracted the attention of the Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones newswires.

The Financial Times and China's state Xinhua News Agency also covered the IPO, in London and Hong Kong respectively.

Results

The retail tranche of the IPO was 82 times oversubscribed when it closed on 8 December 2004.

Trading began at 20p a share on the Hong Kong and London exchanges - a price that was at the top end of the 16p to 21p range hoped for during the campaign. In total, the IPO raised £557m.

'We covered the Air China IPO as part of a feature on the Chinese moving into the global market,' says IoS markets editor Abigail Townsend.

'CDR gave us very helpful background material on the deal and, without a doubt, the agency was very useful,' she adds.

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