Billionaire Richard Li’s FWD Group revives Hong Kong IPO plan, sources say

By Thomson Reuters Jun 5, 2024 | 11:58 PM

By Sumeet Chatterjee and Scott Murdoch

HONG KONG/SYDNEY (Reuters) – Billionaire Richard Li has revived plans to list pan-Asian insurer FWD Group in Hong Kong, said three people with direct knowledge of the matter, after regulatory delay and market volatility scuppered previous attempts to take it public.

Hong Kong-headquartered FWD could target a valuation of up to $9 billion in the initial public offering (IPO) depending on financial market conditions when launching the deal, one of the people said.

The deal timeline and offering size are yet to be decided, the people said, declining to be identified as they were not authorised to speak with media.

“While we do not currently have an active listing application and no decisions have been made to refile at this stage, of course we continue to keep a close eye on capital market developments and conditions,” a FWD spokesperson said.

Li founded FWD in 2013 and controls it via investment arm Pacific Century Group, which has interests in the technology, media, telecoms and property as well as financial sectors.

FWD targeted a valuation of at least $10 billion when it last attempted to list in Hong Kong in 2022, one of the people said. The deal was shelved due to volatile market conditions.

The insurer, which is present in 10 Asian markets, aimed to raise $2 billion to $3 billion in a New York IPO in 2021 but shelved the plan due to lengthy delays in obtaining U.S. regulatory approval.

The revival of the Hong Kong listing plan is in its early stages and could change depending on market conditions and investor sentiment, the people said.

A listing would bolster the outlook for the Asian financial hub which has seen a drop in new listings amid Chinese economic slowdown and geopolitical tension.

The benchmark Hang Seng index has risen 9% this year after ending last year down 13.8%.

FWD, whose minority shareholders include Swiss Re and Apollo Global Management raised $1.83 billion in private placements in 2021 and 2022, Reuters has reported, valuing the insurer at around $9 billion on a post-money basis.

Last year, FWD reported a 22% jump in the value of new business – a key profitability indicator for insurers – to $991 million, and 27% increase in operating profit after tax to $372 million, its website showed.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee in Hong Kong and Scott Murdoch in Sydney; Editing by Christopher Cushing)