Southeast Asian IPOs regain some luster
KUALA LUMPUR/SINGAPORE - Westports Holdings Bhd, the operator of Malaysia's busiest port, priced its IPO at the top of its projected range to raise $680 million, signalling a boost for Southeast Asia's capital markets on pent-up demand for emerging market stocks.
Sources said foreign and domestic funds jostled to bid for Westports, which is partially owned by Asia's richest man Li Ka-Shing, taking advantage of the U.S. Federal Reserve's unexpected decision not to withdraw stimulus.
The result bodes well for an up to $730 million IPO by UMW Oil & Gas Corp in October, which is set to be Malaysia's biggest listing of the year and could give other firms in Malaysia and Southeast Asia the confidence to push ahead with listing plans.
"Issuers in Southeast Asia are taking advantage of this new window as a result of the Fed's surprise decision to not taper - free liquidity reigns and this has been a shot of adrenaline in the arm for emerging market risk appetite," said James Fleming, co-head of Asia Pacific global capital markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong.
IPOs in Southeast Asia had been hit by the global market turmoil sparked by Fed chief Ben Bernanke's comments in May that the U.S. central bank planned to unwind its massive stimulus. Malaysian listings were also hurt by political uncertainty before general elections in May.
Westports' book was more than 30 times oversubscribed and closed two days earlier than scheduled. Overseas demand was instrumental in pushing pricing to the top of 2.30-2.50 indicative range for institutional investors, the sources said.
Westports, which manages the world's 12th most active port overlooking the Malacca Straits, declined immediate comment.
IPOs that could get a bump include a $220 million deal by Seven Convenience Bhd, which could come in the coming months and a $300 million floatation by property development firm Iskander Waterfront early next year.
And 2014 could be a repeat of 2012, when Malaysia was Asia's top destination for listings, with state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd planning a $3 billion listing for its energy assets and independent power producer Malakoff Corp looking at an up to $1 billion IPO.
Beyond Malaysia, companies like the Philippines' Travellers International Hotel Group are also reviving IPO plans although the size of that offering has been cut by almost half to $450 million as investors become more demanding on valuations, sources said.
The Philippines' Robinsons Retail Group also plans to start pre-marketing for its $500 million offering in the second week of October, although this IPO too was reduced in size, according to IFR, a Thomson Reuters publication.
"With a spectacular rise since 2010, valuations of companies in South East Asia are no longer cheap," said David Poh, regional head of portfolio solutions, Societe Generale Private Banking, Asia Pacific.
"IPOs at the present moment present both an opportunity if the fundamentals of the company is sound and reasonably priced, but may also be a high risk for investors as liquidity withdrawal may hurt."
PROCEEDS FOR SHAREHOLDERS
At 2.50 ringgit per share, Westports will have a market value of some 8.53 billion Malaysian ringgit ($2.6 billion) when it debuts on Oct. 18. All proceeds from the offering will go to existing shareholders and not to the company which has said it is listing to raise awareness of its brand.
Westports leaned heavily on cornerstone investors, ranging from Utilico Emerging Markets to Genesis Investment Management, who accounted for nearly half of the institutional tranche.
With the IPO, the Gnanalingam family which is one of Malaysia's wealthiest families, will see its collective holding fall to 46.8 percent from 60 percent. Ruben Emir Gnanalingam Abdullah is the CEO of the firm.
Hong Kong's Li, who owns shares in Westports through a subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa 0013.HK, will see his interest drop to about 24 percent from around a third.
Li is restructuring parts of his Hong Kong business empire, with plans to sell the ParknShop supermarket chain and list the electricity business of Power Assets Holdings Ltd.
Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs and Maybank were the joint global co-ordinators for the Westports IPO. Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and RHB were joint bookrunners.