Singapore’s Olam Cements Food IPO Plans With Adviser Hires

Olam International Ltd., one of Asia’s biggest agricultural commodity traders, plans to list its food ingredients unit by the first half of 2022 as part of a major business overhaul.

The Singapore-based company has appointed joint financial advisers and legal advisers to prepare for an initial public offering of the Olam Food Ingredients unit, it said in a statement on Friday.

The company announced last year a plan to split its food business from the rest of its commodities trading. The move reflects growing recognition of the value of tapping into demand for specialty products from consumers who are becoming increasingly picky about the ingredients and origins of what they eat.

Chief Executive Officer Sunny Verghese didn’t give an estimate on the size of the planned listing, but said it will be “one of the larger IPOs of recent times.”

“In terms of the size of the IPO, it’s too early to announce what that would be,” Verghese said in an interview. “Given the size and scope of the OFI business, it would be a substantial IPO in whichever jurisdiction we list it.”

Bloomberg News reported earlier that Olam is considering London for the listing, citing people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be named because the information is private. Olam could also consider a secondary listing of the business in Singapore at a later date, the people said, adding that deliberations are ongoing and details could change.

Verghese said the company hasn’t determined the venue for the listing and will consider all options to maximize value for new and existing shareholders.

Main Shareholders

“Our objective and criteria on which exchange or location to choose is going to be guided by where the OFI business model is likely to be fully understood,” he told Bloomberg on Friday.

Olam’s shares fell as much as 3.1% in Singapore after the announcement, mirroring a slide in global equities. The stock remains 5% higher this year after losing 15% in 2020.

Olam was founded in 1989 and listed on the Singapore exchange in 2005. The company has a market value of S$5.2 billion ($3.9 billion) and is ranked among the world’s top three suppliers of cocoa beans and cocoa products, as well as coffee, rice and cotton, according to its presentation notes last year.

The company, which counts Singapore’s state-owned investment fund Temasek Holdings Pte. and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. as shareholders, is in the process of splitting its business into two, a move aimed at helping it maximize long-term value via capital raising options, including IPO listings, according to a stock exchange filing.

Demerger Plans

The group expects the separation of the two units to be completed by end-2021. It’s evaluating a plan that would see Olam’s listing on the Singapore Exchange move to a new holding company, and intends to demerge the food ingredients business by distributing shares to investors.

Olam Food Ingredients offers sustainable, natural, value-added food products and ingredients, which comprises cocoa, coffee, edible nuts, spices and dairy. It also own farms, farm-gate origination and manufacturing facilities.

The other unit, Olam Global Agri, supplies food, feed and fiber with a focus on emerging markets in Asia and Africa. It includes Olam’s grains and animal feed, edible oils, rice, cotton and commodity financial service businesses.

Verghese said Olam plans to list OGA about 12 months after the food unit IPO. “We will do it sequentially because the bandwidth required to do two IPOs concurrently at the same time is going to be challenging.”

On Friday, Olam reported its first full-year earnings since the restructuring. Profit fell 22% to S$246 million, largely due to a one-time impairment on its Gabon investment. The food ingredients unit posted a 43% growth in the second half, but its 2020 earnings slipped 2.8% amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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