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Budweiser APAC guides pricing towards low end of range for up to $9.8 billion HK IPO - sources

By Julie Zhu
FILE PHOTO: Portfolio beer brands of Budweiser Brewing Company APAC Ltd are displayed during a news conference on the company's IPO in Hong Kong

By Julie Zhu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Budweiser Brewing Company APAC, the Asia-Pacific business of Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), has guided potential investors towards the bottom of a marketed pricing range for its up to $9.8 billion Hong Kong IPO, two people said.

Investors have already subscribed for more shares than the company is offering in the float, the world's biggest initial public offering this year, Reuters has reported.

The books, which have attracted orders from long-only institutions, sovereign wealth funds and pension funds, will close on Thursday. The final price has yet to be set and is subject to change.

The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorised to speak on the matter.

Budweiser APAC, whose portfolio of more than 50 beer brands includes Stella Artois and Corona, declined to comment.

The company launched its Hong Kong float last week.

It is selling about 1.6 billion primary shares at between HK$40-$47 ($5.13-$6.02) apiece in the IPO, seeking to raise between $8.3 billion and $9.8 billion, much of which will go towards paying down debt at its highly leveraged parent.

AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, has been working to reduce a debt pile of more than $100 billion that was built up by its purchase of rival SABMiller in late 2016.

The company has positioned its Hong Kong listing as creating a champion in Asia-Pacific, where sales are growing as increasingly wealthy consumers turn to premium beer brands.

Even at the low end of the price range, the IPO would surpass the $8.1 billion New York float of Uber in May, the biggest globally this year, Refinitiv data shows.

The deal will also be a welcome boost to Hong Kong, which is lagging behind the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq in terms of IPOs this year, with $8.9 billion to its credit as of June, versus $17.5 billion and $14.9 billion for its U.S. rivals.

The investor response to the offering will also act as a barometer for other large share sales in the near future, with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd considering raising as much as $20 billion through a listing in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Interbank Offered Rate rose across the curve last week, with several tenors reaching their highest levels since late 2008, as investors rushed for cash ahead of Budweiser APAC's IPO amid tight liquidity in the domestic market.

Budweiser APAC is due to begin trading on July 19.

JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are the joint sponsors of the Hong Kong float.

($1 = 7.8160 Hong Kong dollars)


(Reporting by Julie Zhu; Editing by Himani Sarkar)