Tycoon Richard Li Insurer FWD Files for $2 Billion U.S. IPO

FWD, the acquisitive Asian insurer backed by billionaire Richard Li, has filed confidentially for a U.S. initial public offering, moving ahead with preparations for a long-awaited listing.

The holding company of FWD Ltd. and FWD Group Ltd. has confidentially submitted a draft registration with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the planned share sale, according to a statement on Thursday. The statement, which confirms an earlier Bloomberg News report, didn’t specify the size and timeline of the offering.

FWD is considering raising about $2 billion in the U.S. share sale, according to people familiar with the matter. A listing could value the insurer at about $13 billion, the people said, asking not to be identified as the discussions are private.

Details could still change as deliberations are ongoing, the people added. A representative for FWD declined to comment on the IPO size and valuation.

Tycoon Richard Li Insurer FWD Files for $2 Billion U.S. IPO

New business value, a key gauge of profitability, reached $617 million in 2020, representing a 24% increase from a year earlier, according to a separate filing with Hong Kong regulators. The company reported a net loss of $243 million on $9.5 billion revenue last year, compared with a $278 million loss in 2019. Its operating profit before tax was $125 million in 2020.

The insurer considered a range of options over the past few months including a first-time share sale in Hong Kong, Bloomberg News reported in September. FWD has also weighed plans such as a U.S. listing through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, the people have said.

Founded in 2013, FWD has made numerous acquisitions across Asia in recent years. It has a presence in markets including Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and Malaysia, according to its website. Its minority shareholders include fellow insurer Swiss Re AG as well as GIC Ventures, RRJ Capital and Hopu Investments.

As part of preparations for the IPO, FWD Group is seeking approval from its dollar bondholders to substitute itself with its holding company PCGI Intermediate Holdings Ltd., which is the entity seeking the U.S. listing, the Hong Kong filing shows. PCGI plans to restructure the outstanding debt of FWD Group and FWD Ltd. in order to centralize the treasury functions. The options include transferring the debt to PCGI and repaying or refinancing those borrowings.

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