Thailand’s Central Retail said to target US$2 bil IPO in 2020

HONG KONG: Central Group, one of Thailand’s biggest conglomerates, is targeting an initial public offering of its retail arm as soon as the first quarter of next year which could raise around US$2 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

The IPO plan was pushed back from the last quarter of 2019 to allow the group to complete a restructuring involving Bangkok-based department store operator Robinson Pcl ahead of the proposed listing, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

At US$2 billion, Central Retail Corp’s planned offering would be the second-largest in Thailand on record after BTS Rail Mass Transit Growth Infrastructure Fund’s US$2.1 billion listing in 2013, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Another upcoming billion-dollar-plus IPO would be from billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s property arm Asset World Corp, which is looking to raise as much as US$1.5 billion this year.

Central Group, which is controlled by Thailand’s Chirathivat family, said in July it would consolidate its retail arm operations in Thailand, Vietnam and Italy under a single listed entity.

It is conducting a tender offer for the 46% of Robinson stock it does not already own.

The closely held conglomerate operates shopping malls under the Central and Central Embassy brands, as well as Zen men’s lifestyle stores and Supersports athletic equipment shops.

Outside Thailand, it owns Italian department store La Rinascente, Danish retailer Illum, and it bought the Big C hypermarket chain in Vietnam in 2016.

Deliberations of the proposed listing are ongoing and details, including timing and size, could still change, the people said. A representative for Central Group declined to comment.

Companies have raised US$720 million via first-time share sales in Thailand so far this year, up from US$409 million a year ago, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

A single deal, however, can move the needle dramatically. Thailand Future Fund’s US$1.38 billion offering last September took the total funds raised in the country to US$2.76 billion in 2018.