Life Insurance Corporation (LIC)
LIC's first day post-IPO will have disappointed investors. But these are early days yet... Image Credit: AFP

Mumbai: State-run insurer Life Insurance Corporation of India plunged early in its Mumbai trading debut after a record IPO that priced at the top of the range and was oversubscribed nearly three times.

The shares fell as much as 9.4 per cent to Rs860, versus their IPO price of 949, before paring about half of the losses. The offering raised $2.7 billion, with buyers including sovereign funds in Norway and Singapore to millions of small-time Indian investors. The sale of equity in the 65-year-old behemoth, which is synonymous with insurance in India, was oversubscribed nearly three times, riding on the enthusiasm of policyholders who received a Rs60 discount and bid multiple times for the shares on offer.

A poor listing is set to disappoint millions of small-time investors who bid enthusiastically for the issue because of their long and emotional association with LIC and its products. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government decided to push ahead with the IPO despite a slowdown in global fundraising as the war in Ukraine and rising interest rates stoked volatility and sapped investor appetite for equities. Funds from the IPO are critical to bolstering government finances and meeting a budget deficit goal.

In the Top 5

LIC's is the fourth-largest deal among global IPOs priced this year. It comes when there is a dearth of large-size offerings in financial hubs from New York to London and Hong Kong. There hasn't been any listing exceeding $1 billion in Hong Kong or Europe so far this year.

The S&P BSE IPO Index, a gauge tracking the performance of Indian shares for the first two years after listing, has fallen about 25 per cent so far in 2022 after nearly tripling in the previous three years. The weak start also brings back memories of market debuts by a number of large public-sector companies that fell below issue price on listing. New India Assurance Co., listed in November 2017, finished its first session 9 per cent below the listing price. In fact, of the 21 state-run firms that have debuted since 2010, half are still trading below their respective IPO price.

Macquarie Capital Securities (India) Pvt. started coverage of LIC's stock with a neutral rating and a price target of Rs1,000.

"The call here is whether LIC will be able to diversify the product mix in favor of high margin non-par products," analysts led by Suresh Ganapathy wrote in a report, noting that the insurer has lost market share in individual business over the past several years due to lack of a "diversified product portfolio and excessive focus on single premium and group business."