SHARES in Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway are due to be traded for the first time on October 5. To pave the way for partial privatisation, MTRC’s property, rights and liabilities were vested in MTR Corporation Ltd on June 30. This allowed the government to announce on September 11 that it was selling a 20% stake in the company. Shares were priced at HK$8 to HK$9·38, valuing the business at HK$40bn to HK$47bn, somewhat less than analysts had predicted.

Encouraged by discount pricing and loyalty bonuses, retail investors duly swarmed into banks and brokers to collect application forms on September 25, the first day of the offering. In fact, 80% of the shares were allocated to institutional investors and 20% to the public.

MTR carried 376 million passengers in the six months ended June 30, 2·6% down on the same period in 1999. Despite this drop, MTR is seen as a solid investment, and rightly so.