By Scott Murdoch and Samuel Shen
HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Shanghai has topped global initial public offering (IPO) league table for the first time in nearly three years, even as the coronavirus epidemic which originated in China rocked markets around the world.
A total of 33 companies raised $7.31 billion (5.89 billion pounds) floating on the Shanghai main board and the city's start up-focused STAR market, according to Refinitiv data for the first quarter, easily outstripping New York's Nasdaq where 17 companies raised $5.13 billion via IPOs.
But even as Shanghai basks in success, for cash-seeking companies and their bankers the question is whether China can maintain this momentum as the coronavirus continues to cause massive disruption in global financial markets.
While Shanghai hosted the $4.4 billion IPO of Beijing-Shanghai Speed Railway <601816.SS> early in January, accounting for most the funds on the main board, STAR market issuance held up even as the country went into virtual lockdown in February.
Eight companies raised $2 billion that month and a further 5 deals in March were worth $615.5 million.
China's markets have fared better than many Western benchmarks, with the blue-chip CSI 300 <.CSI300> down 9.4% for the year as of Friday March 27, compared with tumbles of 21% fall for the S&P 500 <.SPX> in New York and 25% for the pan-European STOXX 600 index.
EY Greater China IPO practice leader Terence Ho said the fiscal response from China's government - which accelerated a massive programme of economic stimulus measures - could help boost the prospects of companies looking to list on the mainland markets.
"The Chinese government has already rolled out timely policies to help companies, with more economic stimulus on the way," Ho wrote in a recent report.
"These efforts should help the economy and IPO markets recover more quickly when the outbreak is controlled.”
China has also relaxed the rules for follow-on share sales by listed companies in an effort to help virus-hit firms raise cash.
January-March 2020 was the first time since the third quarter of 2017 that Shanghai topped the global leader board to beat the larger New York and Hong Kong exchanges.
"I'm not surprised," said Zhu Ning, deputy dean of the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance (SAIF).
"The number of Chinese start-ups is huge and there's an increasing tendency for Chinese companies to list in the domestic market, where valuation is much higher."
Thailand ranked third for IPOs, thanks to the $2.5 billion IPO of Central Retail <CRC.BK> in February - the country's largest ever IPO.
The largest deal on the Nasdaq was the $1.86 billion of drug research firm PPD Inc <PPD.O> in early February.
(Reporting by Scott Murdoch and Sam Shen; Editing by Jennifer Hughes and Kenneth Maxwell)