AB InBev revives plans for US$5b Hong Kong IPO, says report

Anheuser-Busch InBev, whose brands include Stella Artois, is the world’s largest brewer. — AFP pic
Anheuser-Busch InBev, whose brands include Stella Artois, is the world’s largest brewer. — AFP pic

HONG KONG, Sept 13 — The brewing giant behind brands like Stella Artois and Budweiser has revived plans to raise US$5 billion through an IPO in Hong Kong, resurrecting a proposal that was scuppered two months ago, Bloomberg News reported today.

Belgium-listed Anheuser-Busch InBev is gauging investor demand and will launch the deal as soon as next week, Bloomberg said, citing unnamed sources.

If it goes ahead, it would be the second-biggest IPO of 2019 after Uber raised US$8.1 billion in May.

On Thursday, AB InBev had said its Asia Pacific subsidiary has “resumed its application for the listing of a minority stake of its shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange”.

A Belgian-Brazilian behemoth built over decades of deal-making, AB InBev is saddled with more than US$100 billion in debt, much of it stemming from its blockbuster 2016 acquisition of SABMiller.

Earlier this summer, AB InBev sold its assets in Australia — including the Foster’s beer brand — to Japanese mega-brewer Asahi for US$11.3 billion shortly after shelving the IPO in July.

AB Inbev said the decision to continue to explore an IPO would depend on “a number of factors and prevailing market conditions”.

The world’s biggest brewer had previously hoped to raise almost US$10 billion in an IPO earlier in the year.

But the deal was pulled after it failed to garner enough support from institutional funds to meet the company’s expectations.

“The refile came earlier than we expected,” Euan McLeish, a Sanford C. Bernstein consumer analyst based in Hong Kong told Bloomberg.

“It’s not clear exactly why ABI is in such a rush when the Australian sale has materially reduced investor concerns over debt,” he added. “Potentially they are looking to take advantage of high beer valuations in China, or perhaps they have an M&A deal waiting in the wings and they need a listing to execute it.”

The move could be a boost for Hong Kong bourse, which has been battling to win listings by big international firms at a time of trade tensions between China and the United States and with unprecedented political unrest in the city. — AFP

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