UPDATE 1-Astro Malaysia sets IPO at $1.5 bln amid solid demand

Wed Oct 3, 2012 7:35pm EDT

* IPO priced at top end of indicative range-source

* Takes 2012 IPO issuance in Malaysia to $7.3 bln

* Confirms Malaysia as key market for Asia-Pacific IPOs

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Pay-TV firm Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd priced its initial public offering at the top end of an indicative range, a source said, raising $1.5 billion and highlighting Malaysia's emergence as Asia's top IPO destination this year.

Astro, controlled by Malaysia's second-richest man Ananda Krishnan, set the IPO price at 3 ringgit per share, one source with knowledge of the deal said on Thursday, after gauging institutional investor demand at 2.70 to 3.00 ringgit.

The deal will take Malaysia's IPO issuance in 2012 to about $7.3 billion, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all new listings in Asia-Pacific.

The wave of IPOs that has swept through the country this year stems from a confluence of factors, including several government privatisations and a strengthening Southeast Asian economy that has stoked interest from a captive domestic investor base and global fund managers.

The IPO is Malaysia's third biggest in 2012 -- after Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd's $3.3 billion offering and IHH Healthcare Bhd's $2.1 billion flotation -- and the year's sixth largest worldwide, as the country defies the gloom elsewhere that saw several IPOs pulled due to a lack of investor interest.

"The book is multiple times covered across the range with a good mix of international long only and hedge funds as well as domestic accounts," the source told Reuters earlier on Wednesday.

Astro, which is relisting after it was privatised in 2010, will debut on the local bourse Oct. 19. At the finalised price, Malaysia's biggest pay-TV firm will have a market value of 15.36 billion ringgit ($5.02 billion), nearly double the 8.3 billion ringgit it was worth at the 4.30 ringgit per share privatisation price.

The IPO of up to 1.52 billion shares has attracted strong interest from a cast of 16 cornerstone investors including U.S. hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management.

Malaysian IPO issuance of $7.3 billion so far in 2012, is well up on about $1.8 billion in the same period a year earlier. Eight of the 12 IPOs this year are trading in positive territory, with the largest offerings, Felda and IHH, up 14.3 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively.

Astro's IPO is being handled by CIMB Group Holdings Bhd , Malayan Banking Bhd and RHB Capital Bhd . Several foreign banks are also advisers, including UBS AG, Credit Suisse Group AG, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and JPMorgan Chase & Co.