Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing’s company mulls IPO of retail business


HONG KONG — Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s flagship company is considering spinning off its retail business in what could be one of Asia’s biggest share sales in several years.

Hutchison Whampoa said it has expanded a strategic review of its A.S. Watson & Co. business. That includes the possibility of an initial public offering in some or all of its markets, though it doesn’t plan to give up control.

Investment bank Credit Suisse estimates Watson could raise up to 98 billion Hong Kong dollars (US$13 billion) by selling shares to the public. That would be the largest IPO in Asia since AIA Group Ltd. listed in Hong Kong in late 2010 in a deal valued at US$20.5 billion, according to Dealogic data.

Watson operates more than 11,000 retail stores worldwide. Its businesses include Britain’s Superdrug chain, French cosmetics retailer Marionnaud in France and chains in Russia, Belgium and Germany.