Malaysia's Khazanah cuts IHH holding with $2 billion stake sale to Mitsui

KUALA LUMPUR/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional is selling a 16 percent stake in IHH Healthcare Bhd IHHH.KL to Japan's Mitsui & Co Ltd 8031.T for about $2 billion in cash, kicking off a restructuring of its portfolio under a new government.

FILE PHOTO - The logo of IHH Healthcare Berhad (IHH) is seen at the Singapore Exchange before its listing, July 25, 2012. REUTERS/Tim Chong

In separate statements on Thursday, Khazanah and Mitsui said the Japanese firm is paying 8.42 billion ringgit ($2.01 billion) to raise its stake in IHH to 32.9 percent and become the biggest shareholder of one of Asia’s largest private hospital groups. Khazanah’s stake will be cut to about 26 percent.

Citing sources, Reuters had reported in August that Khazanah will likely cut stakes in some top-linked firms as the new government of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad overhauls the fund’s investment strategy, and that it could also review its stake in IHH Healthcare.

“This is the beginning of a rationalization exercise (for Khazanah),” said a senior banker at a Malaysian bank, declining to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“Probably they will maintain some of the more strategic investments, like some of the utility holdings. Some of the non-core ones and what they think they can rationalize, they will rationalize,” the banker said.

Bankers expect the $37.5 billion fund to trim stakes in lender CIMB Group Holdings CIMB.KL and regional telecoms firm Axiata Group AXIA.KL, and also restructure struggling Telekom Malaysia TLMM.KL in the coming months.

“The divestment is part of Khazanah’s strategy to grow the businesses that we are invested in and to find the appropriate times and value to create liquidity for our future capital and investment needs,” Khazanah Managing Director Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said in the statement.

Facing a shrinking domestic population, Japanese trading house Mitsui has been expanding in Asia’s growing healthcare market. It first bought a stake in IHH in 2011.

“Demand for medical care is rapidly increasing with economic growth and aging whereas Asia continues to face shortage of hospital beds and doctors,” Mitsui said.

IHH has transformed into a leading player in Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and India, and in its key growth markets of China and Hong Kong, becoming one of the largest listed healthcare groups with a market value of $10 billion.

It recently took control of India's Fortis Healthcare FOHE.NS in a tightly contested takeover battle, paying more than $1 billion to gain ownership of over 30 hospitals.

Khazanah anticipates the IHH stake sale will be completed by the first quarter in 2019, subject to relevant regulatory approvals and IHH completing a previously announced acquisition of a 30 percent additional equity stake in a Turkey-based healthcare group Acibadem Saglik Yatirimlari Holding A.S.

Shares in IHH rose 8 percent on Thursday, while Mitsui shares were up 1.4 percent.

($1 = 4.1910 ringgit)

Reporting by Liz Lee and Anshuman Daga; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman