Wed, Mar 19, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Li’s Watson may raise the biggest IPO since 2012

AFP, HONG KONG

Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠), is planning to raise US$6 billion through a dual listing of his flagship retail chain in Hong Kong and London, a report said yesterday, in what would be the world’s biggest initial public offering (IPO) since late 2012.

Li is aiming to sell shares in AS Watson Group — part of his vast Hutchison Whampoa Ltd (和記黃埔) conglomerate — by the end of June, the Wall Street Journal reported, quoting a person familiar with the situation.

Li, 85, said last month that Watson will be listed in two places, with one of them definitely being the Chinese financial hub.

“No matter what, Watson will definitely list in two locations, with Hong Kong being one of them,” the Journal reported Li as saying at the time.

AS EARLY AS THIS WEEK

Yesterday’s report said HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America were involved with preparations for the IPOs, adding that it plans to submit a listing application to the Hong Kong stock exchange as early as this week.

If the firm manages to raise the US$6 billion, it would be the biggest IPO since Japan Airlines Ltd relisted in Tokyo in September last year.

AS Watson owns health and beauty retailer Superdrug, which has more than 870 stores in Britain and Ireland, as well as the PARKnSHOP grocery chain in Hong Kong.

WOOLWORTH FAILED

Li had last year aborted an attempt to sell PARKnSHOP after suitors — among them Australia’s Woolworth Ltd — failed to meet his US$3 billion to US$4 billion asking price.

Hutchison Whampoa said last month that it saw a 20 percent year-on-year increase in net profits for last year, fueled by growth in its port, hotel and property divisions, despite challenging global markets.

Li started out in business as a plastic flower maker, but now commands a vast empire through Cheung Kong Holdings Ltd (長江實業) and Hutchison Whampoa, with global assets in property, telecoms, utilities, ports and retail.

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