AB InBev revives IPO process for Asia business
Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, has resurrected plans to list shares in its Asian business in Hong Kong, two months after it scrapped plans for what would have been the world’s largest initial public offering this year.
In a short statement on Thursday, the company said it had “resumed its application for the listing of a minority stake of its shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange”.
The brewer had planned to sell up to $9.8bn of shares in Budweiser APAC, which markets brands including Stella Artois beer in China, Australia, South Korea and Vietnam, before it shelved the IPO in mid-July. Shortly afterwards it sold its Australian operations to Japanese brewer Asahi for an enterprise value of $11.3bn. But it pulled the IPO after weak investors demand at its stated price range.
Budweiser APAC’s operations in Australia and South Korea generated almost two-third of last year’s revenue of $8.5bn and just over half of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of $2.8bn, according to the previous IPO filing.
China, however, was expected to be the most important driver of growth, as an increasingly affluent middle class gained a taste for foreign labels such as Budweiser, which are positioned as premium brands.
The listing was seen as crucial to the company’s efforts to repair its balance sheet after an aggressive, years-long acquisition spree that saw it accumulate debt of more than $100bn. It hoped that a separate listing for its Asia-Pacific business would give it a means of acquiring regional rivals.
If the IPO goes ahead, it would provide a boost to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, which on Wednesday launched a £32bn bid to buy the London Stock Exchange. The bid is expected to be rebuffed because of doubts over political risk and the structure of the deal.