SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's regulator posted draft initial public offering (IPO) prospectuses for 18 Chinese firms on Monday, bringing the total number of potential issuers up to 46, with state media estimating they could raise as much as 22.6 billion yuan (2.14 billion pounds) from investors.
The anticipated resumption follows a two-month flurry of IPOs in January and February this year, after regulators let the IPO market go dark for 14 months beginning in 2014, which some said was an attempt to boost sagging mainland stock indexes.
The CSRC released draft prospectuses for 28 companies on Saturday.
The official China Securities Journal said that 23.9 billion yuan worth of capital exited the domestic stock market on Monday as some Chinese investors became concerned that new IPOs would divert funds from existing shares.
"The flight of main stock investment funds amid a sharp fall of the main index means that damage to the market by the resumption of IPOs cannot be overestimated," the newspaper said.
The CSI300 Index <.CSI300>, which tracks the largest tickers in Shanghai and Shenzhen, has lost 1.69 percent since Friday, when media first reported the resumption of applications. <.SS>
But uncertainty about how many of these prospective companies will be allowed to actually list, and how soon, appears to have blunted the impact of the announcement on stock markets, and investment bankers have expressed uncertainty as to how hot the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) will let the IPO market actually get in 2014.
Some analysts have predicted the mainland IPO market could hit 250 billion yuan in 2014.
None of the 46 firms has been approved to launch IPOs yet, but the CSRC is expected to review these applications in May and permit the resumption of IPOs within the month, local analysts have forecast.
IPOs paused in March as the CSRC ordered companies and underwriters to update application materials, including applicants' 2013 annual results.
In reaction to the new rules, and possibly to signs that the CSRC was cracking down on pricing misbehaviour by underwriters and inside stakeholders, dozens of Chinese companies have already shelved their listing plans, according to CSRC data published in April.
The total number of firms on the IPO waiting list dropped to 606 in the week ended on April 18, down from 675 firms in the previous week, according to the list published on the regulator's website, www.csrc.gov.cn.
BIG NAMES YET TO COME
The 46 applicants that have published prospectuses are dominated by firms in new materials, environment protection and manufacturing. Hua'an Securities Co Ltd is the only financial institution.
Medium-sized Hua'an, based in the eastern Chinese city of Hefei, plans to issue 800 million yuan-denominated A shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange to raise an unspecified amount of money to consolidate its capital base, it said in its draft prospectus published late on Monday.
State-owned Shanghai Film Co Ltd plans to raise nearly 1 billion yuan to build new cinemas and update existing ones to meet increasing entertainment demand in China's financial hub, its prospectus said on Saturday.
Another film producer, Beijing-based Wanda Cinemas plans raise 2 billion yuan for similar purposes.
However, a slew of big names still on the CSRC's waiting list have yet to publish their prospectuses.
These include large brokerages such as Shanghai-based Guotai Junan Securities and Shenzhen-based First Capital Securities, as well as a cluster of city commercial lenders including the Bank of Shanghai, the Bank of Hangzhou and the Bank of Chengdu.
There are also a number of conglomerates owned by China's central government in line, including China National Nuclear Corp, Huadian Heavy Industries Co Ltd and China Film Group Corp.
(Reporting by Lu Jianxin and Pete Sweeney; Editing by Kim Coghill)