Date
20 November 2019
AB InBev’s Asia-Pacific region, whose main markets are China and Australia, last year made up 18 percent of the group's volume and 14 percent of the underlying operating profit. Photo: Reuters
AB InBev’s Asia-Pacific region, whose main markets are China and Australia, last year made up 18 percent of the group's volume and 14 percent of the underlying operating profit. Photo: Reuters

AB InBev’s Asia unit files for Hong Kong IPO, eyes US$5 billion

The Asia business of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, filed on Friday a draft prospectus for an initial public offering (IPO), which two sources with knowledge of the matter said could be worth at least US$5 billion.

Belgium-based AB InBev, whose beers include Stella Artois and Budweiser, said on Tuesday that it was considering listing a minority stake in its Asian operations to create a separate business.

Budweiser Brewing Company APAC Ltd., AB InBev’s Asian business, did not mention the financial details of the offering in the draft prospectus with the Hong Kong stock exchange.

AB InBev’s Asia-Pacific region, whose main markets are China and Australia, last year made up 18 percent of the group’s volume and 14 percent of the underlying operating profit. Its revenue was US$8.47 billion.

Analysts at Jefferies have said that US$40 billion to US$50 billion would be a reasonable valuation for the Asia-Pacific business.

AB InBev aims to spin off the business to reduce its net debt, which stood at US$102.5 billion at the end of December, a figure inflated by its late 2016 purchase of nearest rival SABMiller for around US$100 billion.

It wants to bring its net debt/EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) ratio to around two times from a multiple of 4.6 at the end of last year. With that goal, it has halved its proposed dividend and said payouts will only grow slowly.

The Belgium-based company acknowledged that a minority stake listing would accelerate this process, but said its commitment to reduce the multiple to below 4 by the end of 2020 was not dependent on it.

The company said the main merit of a Hong Kong listing would be to create a champion in the Asia-Pacific, where sales are still growing and increasingly wealthy consumers are trading up to higher-margin premium beers, such as its Budweiser or Corona.

At US$5 billion, the IPO, which is slated for the second half of the year according to sources, could be the largest in Hong Kong this year, where a flood of companies looking to go public has slowed to a trickle.

Companies have raised US$4.5 billion through Hong Kong listings so far this year, lagging the US$12.1 billion raised on the New York Stock Exchange and the US$9.4 billion raised on Nasdaq, Refinitiv data as of Friday showed.

JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are the joint sponsors of the proposed float. Reuters