Malaysia's biggest mobile phone operator Maxis Bhd is set to raise $3.3 billion in Southeast Asia's biggest initial public offering, as companies rush in for multi-billion dollar listings before the year ends.
Maxis, together with China Minsheng Banking Corp and casino firm Sands China Ltd, will lead more than $10 billion in share sales in Asia, joining more than 30 companies planning to list in either Hong Kong or India over the next few months.
Southeast Asia's new share offerings -- which collapsed during the financial crisis -- is slowly reviving after it trailed China, where IPOs were helped by record low interest rates and economic stimulus packages.
"It is entirely natural when you get a certain degree of recovery in markets, the floodgates open and the IPO market wakes up again," said Peter Elston, a strategist at Aberdeen Asset Management Asia in Singapore.
"We are getting close to the year-end now and the sensible bet would be that if you are a company it would be best to get your IPO done this year rather than next year."
The IPO from Maxis will be followed by a $2 billion listing of CapitaLand's shopping mall trust in Singapore later this month as issuers try to tap in investor demand ahead of 2010 when there is some uncertainty about a recovery.
Maxis' offer of 2.25 billion shares received strong demand as its size ranks it among the top five stocks on Malaysia's benchmark index.
"The lack of shares for public consumption has driven up demand," said Ikmal Hafizi, an analyst at Kuala Lumpur-based TA Research. "And fund managers needing to have exposure to (Malaysia's) benchmark stocks have no choice but to invest in Maxis."
The listing comes just two years after Maxis was taken private by reclusive Malaysian billionaire owner, Ananda Krishnan, who owns telecom assets in India and Indonesia.
Ananda, ranked by Forbes magazine earlier this year as Southeast Asia and Malaysia's second richest man with assets totalling $7 billion, owns a 45-percent stake in Maxis Communications while Saudi Telecom own a 25-percent stake. The rest is led by domestic funds in Malaysia.
Maxis' valuation at about 16 times is the highest among Malaysian telecommunication firms. DiGi, which offers higher dividends, trades at a price to earnings multiple of 14-15 times 2009 earnings and Axiata, with regional growth exposure, trades at 13-14 times.
An external spokesman for Maxis declined comment on the pricing but said the company will issue a statement later in the day.
PRICING WITHIN EXPECTED RANGE
The share offer comes after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak asked Maxis to re-list to boost liquidity and draw in investors in the market.
On Tuesday, sources told Reuters Maxis will price the institutional portion of 2.0 billion shares at 5.00 ringgit a share, versus the initial price band of between 4.80 ringgit and 5.50 ringgit each.
On Monday, sources said the issue was likely to be priced between 5.00 to 5.20 ringgit a share.
The listed company will be a stripped down version as it will house just the Malaysian business, leaving the fast-growing Indian and Indonesian operations with its unlisted parent Maxis Communications Bhd.
Proceeds from the share offer will be used to reduce Maxis Communications' debt and fund operations in Indonesia and India.
CIMB, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, UBS, JP Morgan and Nomura are joint bookrunners for the deal.