AB InBev launches second Asia IPO attempt

Hong Kong

ANHEUSER-BUSCH InBev NV will kick off a second attempt to spin off its Asian business in Hong Kong with the launch on Wednesday of an initial public offering (IPO) worth up to US$6.6 billion that could be the world's second largest flotation this year.

The brewing giant, which in July tried to raise up to US$9.8 billion through an IPO of Budweiser Brewing Company APAC Ltd, said on Tuesday it would offer 1.3 billion shares at between HK$27 and HK$30 apiece.

The new offering includes a rare "upsize" option that will enable the company to sell up to 36.8 per cent more shares. Assuming it exercises the option in full at the top end of the price range, the sale could raise up to US$6.6 billion before any regular over-allotment option is included.

The Belgium-based company would raise up to US$4.8 billion without the upsize option. Proceeds will help AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, reduce debts of more than US$100 billion, accumulated following the purchase of rival SABMiller in late 2016.

Even at the low end of the price range, the IPO would be the second biggest globally this year, trailing the US$8.1 billion flotation of Uber Technologies Inc in May, data from Refinitiv shows.

The IPO would also provide a boost for Hong Kong after China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd last month delayed a listing worth up to US$15 billion amid political unrest in the city.

"You could say that the conditions are more challenging, but when we listen to potential investors we believe that there is solid excitement about this business and its IPO," said Jan Craps, CEO of Budweiser APAC, referring to the protests in Hong Kong.

So far this year, companies have raised US$10.8 billion in IPOs in Hong Kong - well short of the US$41 billion raised in New York, according to Refinitiv data. AB InBev's revived deal excludes the brewer's Australian operations, which it agreed to sell to Japan's Asahi Group for US$11 billion shortly after the 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 could make it easier to achieve a higher valuation, sources have said.

It would also give Budweiser APAC, whose portfolio of more than 50 beer brands includes Stella Artois and Corona, a market capitalisation of US$45.6 billion-US$50.7 billion prior to the IPO, the company said in a statement on Tuesday. REUTERS