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Anheuser-Busch picks JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley for possible Asia IPO

Hong Kong

ANHEUSER-BUSCH InBev has selected JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley for a possible initial public offering of its Asian operations in what could be one of the region's biggest listings this year, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The world's largest brewer is weighing Hong Kong as a listing venue, though it hasn't made a final decision, said the sources. The Belgium-based company is considering adding more arrangers to the deal later, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private.

An IPO of AB InBev's Asia business could raise more than US$5 billion, people familiar with the matter said last month. Only three IPOs on Asian exchanges topped that amount last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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That included China Tower's US$7.5 billion listing and Xiaomi's US$5.4 billion offering, both in Hong Kong. SoftBank Group's US$21 billion listing in December of its Japanese mobile unit in Tokyo was the second-largest of all time.

"In line with our culture, we are always looking at opportunities to optimise our business and drive long-term growth," a representative for AB InBev said in a statement. "We are committed to our businesses in the Asia Pacific region and excited about the potential in this geography."

A representative for JPMorgan declined to comment. A representative for Morgan Stanley said the bank couldn't immediately comment.

A listing could give AB InBev's Asian business a value ranging from US$40 billion to US$70 billion based on early estimates, though the eventual figure would depend on market demand and growth prospects, people familiar with the matter have previously said.

The maker of Budweiser beer has been looking to reduce borrowings after its purchase of SABMiller for more than US$100 billion in 2016.

AB InBev shares fell 38 per cent last year, making it one of the worst performers on the Euro Stoxx 50 index of European blue chips. Its shares have risen almost 16 per cent this year, driven largely by news of its possible Asia listing. BLOOMBERG