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China Mobile gets the green light to list in Shanghai after it was kicked out of New York

By Laura He, CNN Business

China’s largest telecom company has received the green light to raise billions of dollars for its 5G ambitions by listing shares in Shanghai, months after it was kicked out of New York.

China Mobile said late Monday in a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where it also trades, that it had received approval from the China Securities Regulatory Commission to move ahead with the share sale.

It’s not clear yet how much money China Mobile will raise. It said in the filing that it needs to conduct “preliminary price consultations” this week.

But the total — which the company wants to use to help it ramp up its 5G capabilities, among other things — could be in the billions of dollars.

In a statement on Tuesday, the company said it plans to issue 845.7 million shares. Based on the stock’s closing price in Hong Kong on Monday, that would place the raise at 39.16 billion yuan ($5 billion).

In August, China Mobile filed a preliminary prospectus outlining an intent to raise 560 billion yuan ($8.8 billion) for 5G, cloud infrastructure and smart home projects.

China Mobile and two other state-run telecom firms — China Telecom and China Unicom — were forced to delist from the New York Stock Exchange in January, after the Trump administration barred American investment in companies with ties to the Chinese military. US President Joe Biden signed an executive order in June that expanded the ban.

China Telecom, the country’s second largest telecom firm, also trades in Hong Kong and listed in Shanghai in August. Its $7.3 billion raise was one of the world’s largest this year. Rival China Unicom already trades in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

China Mobile Chairman Yang Jie said in August that a listing in mainland China would “effectively promote the development of the company” and let its customers “share the benefits of the company’s growth and development.”

“Because our customer market is basically in China, if we come back, the capital market and the customer market will completely match,” he said in an earnings call at the time.

China Mobile is crucial to China’s high-tech ambitions to win the global race in 5G. The country wants to triple the number of 5G base stations it has by 2025 — a ramp up that would cover more than half of the population.

In its prospectus, the company said it would use roughly half of the money it wants to raise in Shanghai on 5G plans. The target is to build at least 500,000 5G base stations by 2022.

Chinese telecom companies have already built more than 1 million 5G base stations across the country, according to figures from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in September.

US-China tensions have in recent years complicated China’s high-tech ambitions, with Washington imposing restrictions on exports of American technologies to Chinese companies, such as Huawei and SMIC.

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