FWD plans up to RM12.5b Hong Kong IPO

HONG KONG • FWD Group Ltd, the Asian insurer backed by billionaire Richard Li, has picked banks for its planned Hong Kong IPO that could raise as much as US$3 billion (RM12.45 billion), according to people familiar with the matter.

FWD has selected Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley to work on the potential share sale, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information is private. HSBC Holdings plc is also working on the offering, which could take place as soon as next year, the people said.

Deliberations are at an early stage and details of the offering could change, the people said. Representatives for FWD, HSBC, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley declined to comment, while a representative for Goldman Sachs didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

At US$3 billion, FWD’s IPO would be Asia’s biggest by an insurance company since Japan Post Holdings Co Ltd’s US$5.7 billion offering in 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The insurer’s share sale will further boost Hong Kong’s IPO market, which has been dominated by listings of Chinese companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and JD.com Inc.

Founded in 2013, FWD has US$50.9 billion in assets under management, according to its website. The insurer has more than 7.5 million customers and 6,200 employees across Hong Kong and Macau, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and Malaysia. Its minority shareholders include fellow insurer Swiss Re AG, which bought a 12.3% stake in 2013, as well as GIC Ventures, RRJ Capital and Hopu Investments.

FWD has been on an acquisition spree in recent years. The Hong Kong-based insurer paid US$3 billion for a life insurance business in Thailand last year, followed by a bancassurance deal with Vietnam’s biggest lender.

In June, FWD agreed to buy a significant minority stake in PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia Tbk’s life insurer that values the business at about US$1 billion, Bloomberg News reported. The firm also recently acquired two of MetLife Inc’s Hong Kong units. — Bloomberg