September 24, 2019 / 1:07 AM / 21 days ago

AB InBev Asia unit raises $5 billion in revived Hong Kong IPO under shadow of protests

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Brewer AB InBev priced the Hong Kong IPO of its Asia-Pacific unit at the bottom of a marketed range to raise about $5 billion, indicating deals in the pipeline may need subdued valuations to succeed as protests in the city unnerve investors.

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (AB InBev), the world’s largest brewer, relaunched the initial public offering (IPO) this month after cancelling a plan for a bigger IPO of the unit in July citing “several factors, including the prevailing market conditions”.

Separately, Topsports International Holdings, the sportswear business of Chinese footwear retailer Belle International, launched on Tuesday a Hong Kong IPO of up to $1.2 billion, as per a marketing term sheet seen by Reuters.

The AB InBev and Topsports offerings are among a handful of recent sizeable IPOs seen as tests of investor sentiment following anti-government protests that have roiled Hong Kong for nearly four months and weighed on its stock market.

Markets more generally are also on edge amid a trade dispute between the United States and China, as well as slowing global growth.

The IPO of Budweiser Brewing Company APAC Ltd is still the second-biggest globally so far this year, trailing only the $8.1 billion flotation of Uber Technologies Inc in May, data from Refinitiv showed.

AB InBev, whose portfolio of more than 50 beer brands includes Stella Artois and Corona, said on Tuesday the Budweiser IPO was priced at HK$27 ($3.44) per share, the bottom end of the HK$27 to HK$30 indicative range, confirming what sources had earlier told Reuters.

AB InBev’s revived IPO excludes its Australian operations, which it agreed to sell to Japan’s Asahi Group for $11 billion shortly after the previous IPO was shelved.

Without Australia, a large but mature market, AB InBev’s Asia-Pacific operations would be more focused on faster growth markets such as China, India and Vietnam, which has made the IPO an easier sell, sources have said.

“The company has top-notch assets and without the slow-growing Australian operations the deal has become more attractive than last time,” said one source with knowledge of the Budweiser IPO.

“And today’s low end pricing would give the stock more upside potential in the public market.”

BOOST FOR HONG KONG?

The IPO pricing comes as Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that she hoped peaceful and rational dialogue will help find a way out of the protests gripping the former British colony.

At HK$27 per share, Budweiser will have a market value of $45.6 billion, and a forward enterprise value (EV) to expected EBITDA - earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization - valuation of 17 times, according to sources with knowledge of the matter. By comparison, the aborted July float was aiming for a forward EV/EBITDA of up to 18.2 times.

The new valuation is cheaper than the 23.5 times forward EV/EBITDA that its rival China Resources Beer Holdings commands.

Budweiser said last week it had lined up Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC to invest $1 billion in the IPO as its cornerstone investor, lending some stability to the IPO. It did not have a cornerstone investor during the July float attempt.

A successful completion of the Budweiser IPO, though, could encourage more Hong Kong IPO candidates to firm up their plans. China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd delayed last month its up to $15 billion listing in the city amid the growing political unrest there.

More IPOs will be a boost for Hong Kong as a listings hub, with the city currently lagging its New York rivals. Companies raised $10.8 billion in new listings in Hong Kong as of mid-September, well short of the $41 billion raised in New York, according to Refinitiv data.

The Budweiser IPO included a rare “upsize” option that enabled the Belgium-based brewer to sell up to 36.8% more shares in the offering. That option was partially exercised, it said.

Proceeds from the IPO will help AB InBev reduce debt of over $100 billion accumulated following the purchase of rival SABMiller in late 2016. The stock of Budweiser will debut on Sept. 30.

The brewer also has another goal - creating an Asian champion to spur consolidation.

Analysts see the brewing assets of San Miguel of the Philippines or of ThaiBev as possible partners or targets.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Anheuser-Busch InBev is pictured outside the brewer's headquarters in Leuven, Belgium February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are the joint sponsors of the flotation. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Chinese investment bank CICC are the global coordinators for the offering.

Topsports, the largest sportswear retailer in China, is set to price its IPO on Oct. 3 and trading of its shares is scheduled to start on Oct 10.

Topsports declined to comment on its IPO.

Reporting by Julie Zhu; Writing by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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