Inpex fetches 549,000 yen in debut on first section

Inpex Corp., a government-affiliated oil exploration company, proved popular in its debut Wednesday on the first section of Tokyo Stock Exchange, ending the day at 549,000 yen, 18.1 percent higher than its initial public offering price of 465,000 yen.

In line with the listing, the state-run Japan National Oil Corp., which holds a 53.96 percent stake in Inpex, put up 343,725 shares for sale, or 17.9 percent of Inpex’s 1.92 million outstanding shares, according to Inpex and JNOC.

Inpex stock rose as high as 587,000 yen in the morning after fetching an initial quote of 576,000 yen at 9:45 a.m., 23.9 percent higher than the IPO price. It was the day’s most heavily traded issue by value.

“Inpex proved popular as assessment of the company was already high among overseas investors, because its businesses are expanding internationally and its market capitalization is very large,” said Tsuyoshi Segawa, equity strategist at Shinko Securities Co.

A strong debut Monday by chip maker Elpida Memory Inc. and high crude oil prices also encouraged investors to snap up Inpex shares, Segawa added.

Inpex is the second of JNOC’s subsidiaries to go public, following Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., which made its TSE debut last December.

The Inpex listing is part of a plan to sell off the assets of the heavily indebted JNOC, which is slated to be dismantled next March. Funds raised from the stock market will be used to make up for JNOC’s losses.

Inpex reported the same day a group net profit of 34.78 billion yen for fiscal 2003, up 24.6 percent from the previous year, and a pretax profit of 94.77 billion yen, up 35.3 percent, on an 8.6 percent rise in operating revenue to 218.83 billion yen.

The Inpex IPO, worth about 160 billion yen, was the third-largest IPO this year, following Electric Power Development Co. and Shinsei Bank.

Inpex was established in February 1966 as part of a program to secure stable supplies of oil and natural gas for Japan. It has succeeded in developing a large gas field in Indonesia that has become one of its main sources of revenue, along with one in Australia.

Inpex also possesses oil exploration rights in the Middle East, the Caspian Sea and South America.

Amid concerns about energy supplies due to the recent surge in crude oil prices, Inpex is expected to play a pivotal role as a resource development company in Japan.