HONG KONG - Evergrande Property Services Group's Hong Kong IPO priced at the lower end of expectations to raise $1.8 billion, sources said, the tepid demand underscoring concerns about the financial health of its debt-laden parent. The offering comes after a run of setbacks for China Evergrande Group, the country's second-biggest and most indebted property developer with some $124 billion in borrowings as of June. These include a secondary share sale last month that raised only half its initial target and the dropping of a plan to inject most of its property assets into a Shenzhen company via a backdoor listing. "Evergrande has too much debt...the listing of the property services unit is to save the parent; Evergrande will continue to sell shares (in the unit) after the listing to cut debt," said Francis Lun, chief executive of GEO Securities. Hong Kong's second-biggest IPO this year priced at HK$8.80 per share, compared to the marketed range of HK$8.5 to $9.75 each, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, declining to be identified as the information has not yet been made public. Evergrande Property Services declined to comment The IPO price does, however, represent a 5% increase from a $3 billion private funding round the company undertook in August when it issued shares at HK$8.375. At HK$8.80 a share, Evergrande Property is valued at HK$95.06 billion ($12.3 billion). Half the funds raised will go to the company with the other half earmarked for the parent firm. A greenshoe option also exists, which if exercised would take the size of the stake sold from 15% to 17%. Evergrande has been scrambling for cash as Beijing tackles what it considers excessive borrowing in the real estate development sector with planned new debt-ratio caps. But both credit and sell-side analysts have said they do not see imminent risks of default, noting Evergrande has various fund-raising options including domestic bond issuance and plans to list other units. And while Evergrande was on the hook for as much as $19 billion to investors in the planned backdoor listing, it has managed to reach agreements with most investors who will instead keep the equity in property assets rather than demand repayment. Some analysts noted the cool reception to the IPO was also due to a slew of property services-related listings in Hong Kong and the sense that the sector was overvalued. Three of Evergrande Property's rivals including Shimao Services Holdings Ltd recently priced towards the middle or upper end of ranges flagged during their bookbuilds. "So Evergrande has to face reality and set a lower price in the hope of getting a higher trading price after IPO," said UOB Kay Hian director Steven Leung. The IPO and a previous share sale by Evergrande will reduce its stake in Evergrande Property to around 59%. Evergrande Property is expected to list on Dec 2. REUTERS
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