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Huy Viet Nam cooks up country's first offshore IPO

Update: December, 09/2015 - 08:52

Mon Hue, a casual fast-dining chain based in Ho Chi Minh City owned by Huy Vietnam Group, which is expected to file an application with Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing for a listing this month. — Photo

HCM CITY (VNS) — Viet Nam is about to see its first-ever foreign listing of a company, and it won't be in Singapore, Finance Asia reported.

Huy Viet Nam Group, operator of restaurant chains based in HCM City, is expected to file an application with Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing for a listing this month, according to bankers and investors who spoke with FinanceAsia. The actual transaction is slated for the spring of 2016.

The company has yet to determine how many shares to sell. However, bankers familiar with the deal said the listing could raise up to $100 million. Citic CLSA is sole sponsor, and it and CIMB are joint global coordinators.

No Vietnamese company has ever listed overseas, although some have tried. Vinamilk, considered by many investors to be among the best-managed companies in Viet Nam and still 45 per cent-owned by the government, has considered listing in Singapore.

But these efforts have not come to fruition. Today, Vietnamese companies do not favour Singapore as a listing destination because it is too small, turnover is less than $400 million per day, and the stock exchange regulations are stricter than Hong Kong's, Finance Asia remarked.

"There are 123 Chinese companies listed in Singapore but they're dead orphans," Finance Asia quoted Dominic Scriven, managing director at HCM City-based Dragon Capital, as saying. "Hong Kong is a much bigger market and the greater Chinese view [among investors] lends itself more readily to Viet Nam."

Bankers working on the deal say it will be marketed to global investors and not particularly to Chinese ones, reported Finance Asia.

"Viet Nam is interesting but access is difficult," said a banker in Hong Kong. "A Vietnamese listing overseas will need liquidity."

"The time is ripe to do something interesting in equities," said a second foreign banker, who has looked at the Huy Viet Nam deal but declined to work on it.

Both bankers said investor interest has been intense on pre-marketing roadshows for Viet Nam-related transactions over the past two months in New York and Hong Kong. Investors are attracted to the headline numbers: Viet Nam boasts 6 per cent-plus GDP growth, a young 90 million-strong population, an emerging middle class, manufacturing driven by foreign direct investment, and a stable financial system.

But the stock market is small, with a market capitalisation of $57 billion (including both the HCM City and Ha Noi bourses), limits on foreign ownership of listed companies, tiny free floats among large, listed entities, and a dearth of companies from desirable sectors.

Huy Viet Nam is raising financing abroad, in order to fuel the growth of its restaurants, which include Mon Hue, a casual fast-dining chain based in HCM City. The company wants to expand Mon Hue and other chains to Ha Noi and other parts of the country. — VNS

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