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Media IPO makes a splash at Malaysian bourses

MUMBAI: Malaysian media magnate Ananda Krishnan's pay TV company, Astro All Asia Networks, has raised $526 million (M$ 2 billion) through its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. The issue is said to be 8.16 times oversubscribed.

According to a company statement, the funds so raised are slated to go towards debt repayment. Market analysts have pegged the offer to debut at a 10 per cent premium on 28 October, which is when the shares will be first listed on the Exchange.

According to Malaysian Issuing House (MIH), 111,817 applications had been received against 241.21 million IPO shares for Astro All Asia Networks' public tranche and 88,139 applications were received for 245.41 million shares from eligible subscribers and retailers. Astro had offered 425 million shares to foreign and Malaysian institutional and selected investors and 83.4 million shares were up for retail investors. The IPO's retail portion was reportedly fixed at RM3.65 a share and its institutional portion at RM4.06 a share.

As per a Financial Times report, about 60 per cent of the IPO had been offered to foreign institutions, 24 per cent to local funds, and the balance to retail and employees.

Although according to earlier estimates, the issue was deemed oversubscribed by over 15 times, the final figures from MIH reflected market concerns about Astro's earnings growth potential. The IPO is now being said to be 8.16 times oversubscribed - around half way through initial expectations.

Since Astro is not considered a high-yield stock, investors are more interested in the satellite operator's earnings growth, which would depend largely on whether the media group can rope in the predominant Malay population. For now, most of Astro's 1.1 million subscribers comprise the Chinese and Indian communities, which are nearly a quarter of all Malaysian households.

Astro - Malaysia's sole pay-TV operator - has been offering satellite services for the last seven years and operates 46 pay channels that compete with five free-to-air broadcasters. As per its financial results in the prospectus, Astro had posted a net profit of RM293.11 million for the year till January 2003; but for the first six months till July this year, it made a net loss of RM30.77 million.

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