Il trilione di PetroChina

Prima di eccitarsi tanto per l’enorme capitalizzazione raggiunta da PetroChina con la quotazione delle sue azioni alla borsa di Shangai, la stampa dovrebbe informarsi. Poi informare. Fortuna che c’è il Financial Times. Non mi va di tradurre.

The reality is less eye-popping. PetroChina, one of China’s three oil and gas majors, acquired its $1,000bn-plus market capitalisation on the back of a listing on China’s domestic “A” share market, which routinely attributes sky-high valuations to issuers. No wonder: issuers are parsimonious with stock – PetroChina’s mainland free float is a minuscule 2 per cent – and mainland Chinese investors are essentially restricted to buying shares at home. Such favourable supply and demand dynamics explain why the Shanghai market is trading at around 50 times earnings. Pricing the roughly 86 per cent of shares that are held by the state at the slightly saner Hong Kong price gives PetroChina a market cap of $420bn, behind Exxon Mobil.

Operationally, too, PetroChina is something of a minnow beside its peers. Exxon Mobil generates double the earnings of PetroChina – although, since it does so on four times the revenues, the US giant’s profit margins are punier. PetroChina boasts a couple of potentially exciting exploration sites but, barring big discoveries, its outlook is dull. Analysts are forecasting annual earnings growth of 10 per cent this year and just 3 per cent in 2008, according to Bloomberg estimates. And forecast return on equity, at 23 per cent, is well below Exxon Mobil’s 32 per cent. Bigger, as China’s legions of investors will doubtless discover in due course, is not always better.

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