Hong Kong billionaire
FWD Group Holdings Ltd. filed for an initial public offering in the city, joining a growing cohort of companies that are rerouting their fundraising plans to the Asian financial hub from New York.
FWD, a fast-growing life insurer with businesses in 10 Asian markets, on Monday filed its application with the Hong Kong stock exchange. The company aims to raise about $1 billion via the share sale, according to a person familiar with the matter.
With the Hong Kong listing, FWD has quickly changed course. In September last year, the Hong Kong-headquartered company lodged its IPO application with U.S. regulators, but by late December it had scrapped the plan, given U.S.-China tensions.
Regulatory scrutiny in both countries has made it difficult for Chinese companies to list in the U.S., marking a financial decoupling between the world’s two largest economies. American legislation is set to boot Chinese companies off U.S. stock exchanges in two years if they fail to open up their books for U.S. regulatory inspection. In another sign of that decoupling, in December Chinese ride-hailing giant
Didi Global Inc.
said it planned to delist from the U.S.
Several Chinese startups have abandoned U.S. IPO plans in recent months, with some of them instead pursuing listings in the former British colony, including the fitness app Keep Inc. and the podcasting and audio platform Ximalaya Inc.
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd. said last week that the IPO pipeline for the city remains very good in 2022.
Still, these are challenging times for large stock offerings, amid heightened global volatility and with Hong Kong’s markets susceptible to regulatory headwinds from both Beijing and Washington. Hong Kong’s flagship Hang Seng index ended Monday at its lowest closing level since March 2020, back near the lowest points hit during the initial Covid-19 panic.
, an offshoot of state-owned China Tourism Group Co., shelved an IPO that could have raised up to $10 billion.
FWD is controlled by Mr. Li’s private investment company, Pacific Century Group. Mr. Li is the younger son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.
FWD traces its roots to 2013, when it acquired Asian assets from
and since then has bought other businesses in markets including Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Hong Kong. Some of the transactions were bancassurance deals, where the insurer buys a bank’s insurance operations and secures exclusive rights to distribute these products via the bank’s branch networks.
The planned Hong Kong IPO follows a $1.6 billion fundraising done in two parts in December and January, which was backed by investors including U.S. investment giant
Apollo Global Management Inc.,
Swiss Re AG
, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Also on Monday, FWD reported $200 million of net profit for 2021, excluding profit attributable to noncontrolling interests. It had recorded losses in the previous three years.
Corrections & Amplifications
Hong Kong’s flagship Hang Seng index ended Monday at its lowest closing level since March 2020. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Tuesday. (Corrected on Feb. 28.)
Write to Jing Yang at Jing.Yang@wsj.com
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