China’s national champion chipmaker becomes its biggest listing in a decade

July 16, 2020, 8:46 AM UTC

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China’s biggest chipmaker debuted in Shanghai on Thursday in the country’s biggest initial public offering in a decade.

Shares in Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC) jumped 245% at the opening of SMIC’s first day on Shanghai’s tech-focused Star market board, which has no trading limits for a stock’s first five days. Having raised the equivalent of $7.6 billion before the listing, SMIC’s Shanghai debut was China’s biggest stock sale since the Agricultural Bank of China’s IPO in 2010.

The Star board fast-tracked the listing; the float occurred 19 days after SMIC applied to list on the Nasdaq-like Star board, quicker than the standard monthslong approval time.

The Shanghai debut was a secondary listing for SMIC, which dual-listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Hong Kong’s stock exchange in 2004, but delisted from the NYSE last year. SMIC shares in Hong Kong on Thursday fell 17%.

SMIC’s stellar Shanghai debut could provide confidence to other U.S.-listed Chinese companies looking to list closer to home, especially at a time when the U.S. government has threatened to delist Chinese companies trading on U.S. exchanges.

As China’s largest chipmaker, SMIC is crucial to China’s goal of fostering a self-sufficient domestic chipmaking industry. The country currently spends more on importing semiconductor chips than it does on oil, and SMIC is one of the national champions the government hopes will increase self-reliance.

The U.S. and Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims sovereignty over, lead the world in semiconductor chip production. Taiwan-based chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company is the world’s largest contract chipmaker by market share and market value.

A strong domestic semiconductor manufacturing sector has been a priority for Beijing since 2015, when it pledged to invest in homegrown chipmakers. The looming specter of tech decoupling and trade and political tensions with the U.S. has made China’s technological self-sufficiency objectives all the more urgent.

SMIC debuted in Shanghai amid a bull run across China’s stock markets. Last week, Chinese quantum information security firm QuantumCTek Co. leapt 924% in its trading debut on the Star market in what became the largest first-day leap on any Chinese exchange.

The SMIC offering makes the Star board the exchange with the second-most funds raised in the world in 2020, behind Nasdaq and ahead of Hong Kong. The Star market has earned $14.1 billion in proceeds from IPOs and secondary listings this year; Nasdaq has earned $18.02 billion, and Hong Kong’s pulled in $13.8 billion.