WH Group's IPO plans revived

by Kimberlie Clyma
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HONG KONG – WH Group Ltd. plans to raise up to $2.5 billion in a relaunched intial public offering, the global pork producer announced Wednesday to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Chinese company, which bought Smithfield Foods Inc. last year, scrapped its original $5 billion IPO April 29.

In a statement in late April, the company said: “In light of deteriorating market conditions and recent excessive market volatility, the company, having consulted the Joint Sponsors, has decided that the Global Offering will not proceed at this time. Accordingly, the International Underwriting Agreement relating to the International Offering will not be entered into and the Hong Kong Underwriting Agreement relating to the Hong Kong Public Offering will not become unconditional.”

Various factors contributed to the IPO's failure. Lackluster demand from investors forced the company to slash its IPO to less than $2 billion from a high of nearly $5.3 billion. The spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus among US hog farms scuttled the company's plan to import cheap US pork as prices of pork sharply increased. Additionally, a $600 million pay-out to two WH Group executives raised investors' concerns about corporate governance.

WH Group’s new filing didn’t disclose an actual fundraising size, but sources have reported that the company plans to sell shares at 12 times the company’s forecast 2014 earnings to raise between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, WSJ reported. The company is planning to sell one-fifth of its enlarged share capital in the IPO and plans to begin taking orders in two weeks once it gets listing approval.

Existing shareholders, including its single largest shareholder CDH Investments, won’t be selling any share in the IPO, nor will with Chinese private-equity firm or the management board of WH Group sell any shares for a year after the pork producer lists in Hong Kong, WSJ sources said.

According to the filing, this time around WH Group has two sponsors handling its offering – Morgan Stanley and Chinese investment bank BOCI International. In the previous attempt to list, it had an additional five sponsors (sponsors are the lead underwriters that handle the IPO process and act as liaisons with the stock exchanges and investors).
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