Hong Kong mogul Richard Li’s FWD to raise up to $ 3 billion in US IPO

FWD, the Asian insurer founded by the son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, has filed for an IPO in the United States in what would be one of the biggest listings of the year.

The company launched by Richard Li in 2013 said Thursday that it had confidentially submitted IPO applications to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. This allows it to submit documents to the SEC before publicly filing a prospectus.

FWD said the number of U.S. custodian shares to be offered and the price range for the IPO have not yet been determined and the timing of listing is subject to regulatory approval. But the company could ask for $ 2 billion to $ 3 billion from the sale of shares, according to people familiar with the situation.

FWD has aggressively grown across Asia, rapidly deploying a network in 10 countries, including Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia.

The insurer has nearly 10 million customers, more than $ 63 billion in assets and approximately 6,100 employees and 33,000 agents.

Richard Harris, fund manager at Hong Kong-based Port Shelter Investment Management, said FWD “has made huge gains. [in market share] because he has a lot of firepower behind him ”.

As with Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong conglomerate, FWD “has a strategic vision of industries and is investing very heavily in them,” said Harris.

He added that it was “interesting” that the insurer chose to register in New York on Hong Kong, but American investors “will be interested [in FWD] and there seems to be a slight thaw from a Chinese business perspective – and it will be recognized in New York as a Chinese business ”.

Li launched FWD with the $ 1.2 billion acquisition of ING’s pension and insurance businesses in Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau. FWD CEO Huynh Thanh Phong’s expansion strategy focused on combining moves to new Asian markets with the use of technology to reduce the red tape and complexity common to the mailing industry. region.

The group engulfed its competitors as rival financial groups withdrew from the region, notably MetLife’s activity in Hong Kong and Thailand’s insurance business Commercial Bank of Siam, the largest takeover ever by the industry in Southeast Asia.

“[SCB was] the price advantage that everyone wanted to seek ”, Phong told the Financial Times in an interview this year. FWD eventually acquired SCB for around 93 billion Bt ($ 3 billion) in 2019, giving it a 36% market share in Thailand in terms of bancassurance, more than the following three groups combined.

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