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The BBC's Jill McGivering reports
"A money making frenzy"
 real 28k

Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 17:47 GMT
Internet fever sweeps Hong Kong

Crowds of people wanting to invest
More than 30,000 queued at one bank for tom.com shares


Police had to step in to keep order among investors queuing to buy shares as the internet gold rush swept dramatically into Hong Kong.

A crowd of about 30,000 people formed outside one of the few banks where small investors could apply for shares in internet firm tom.com.

Queues in the streets Rain failed to dampen enthusiasm
Police had to close off Nathan Road, one of Hong Kong's busiest shopping streets, because of the sheer pressure of people wanting to make their bid for stock.

The chaotic scenes prompted the financial regulator on Thursday to publicly criticise the internet portal and the sponsors of its initial public offering.

The Securities and Futures Commission(SFC) said that tom.com, BNP Prime Peregrine Securities and HSBC had not prepared sufficient subscription forms nor set up proper arrangements for collecting the forms.

"They should have made better arrangements for distribution and acceptance of application forms," the SFC said.

HSBC Thousands queued at the HSBC HQ
Thousands of investors pushed and shoved through queues stretching back as far as half a mile to hand in their forms at the worst hit HSBC branch in Kowloon.

Analysts have predicted that the Hong Kong firm's share sale will prove to have been a record 2,000 times over-subscribed.

The cause of the internet fever, tom.com, is a Chinese information and entertainment portal, controlled by Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa, two of Hong Kong's most successful blue chip companies.

Lottery hopes

Its shares are expected to begin trading on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong's Growth Enterprise Market on 1 March, and analysts are predicting big debut trading gains.

The SFC has ordered those organising the share sale to submit a report on the case.

"The company sponsor and receiving bank should have been aware of the investor interest in the IPO, particularly in view of the publicity running up to the IPO," it said.

Meanwhile those lucky investors who managed to get their applications in, will be hoping that tom.com lives up to the lottery winning expectations it appears to have built up.

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