By Julie Zhu and Sumeet Chatterjee
HONGKONG (Reuters) – 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 $5 billion (4 billion pounds).
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% of group volume and 14% of underlying operating profit. Its revenues were $8.47 billion.
Analysts at Jefferies have said that $40 billion-$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 $102.5 billion at the end of December, a figure inflated by its late 2016 purchase of nearest rival SABMiller for around $100 billion.
It wants to bring its net debt/EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) 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 $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 $4.5 billion through Hong Kong listings so far this year, lagging the $12.1 billion raised on the New York Stock Exchange and the $9.4 billion raised on Nasdaq, Refinitiv data as of Friday showed.
JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are the joint sponsors of the proposed float.
(Reporting by Julie Zhu and Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)