Indian insurer LIC set to launch $8 bln IPO on March 11, sources say

SYDNEY/NEW DELHI, Feb 18 (Reuters) - A public offering of shares by India's state-run Life Insurance Corp (LIC), set to be the country's biggest yet at $8 billion, is expected to open for anchor investors on March 11, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The book will open for bidding by other investors a couple of days later, the sources said.

LIC's initial public offering (IPO) is expected to obtain regulatory approval by the first week of March, after which an indicative marketing price band will be set, said the sources, declining to be named as the deal discussions are private.

LIC declined to comment. A finance ministry spokesperson did not immediately respond to a Reuters request seeking comment.

The insurer's IPO will be a test of the depth of capital markets in India, where equity deals worth more than a couple of billion dollars are rare. The biggest IPO so far was worth $2.5 billion by payments company Paytm (PAYT.NS) last year.

LIC's offering will also sound investor appetite for new equity deals, with a number of Indian companies that listed last year trading below offer prices on concerns over lofty valuations and looming interest rates hikes by central banks.

The sources said the IPO launch schedule could change, though for now the issuer was working to meet those timelines.

LIC, the country's largest insurance company, filed a draft IPO prospectus on Sunday with the market regulator to sell 5% of the Indian government's stake to potentially raise nearly $8 billion. read more .

Sources had told Reuters last month that LIC could begin issuing public shares by mid-March. They did not elaborate.

The government is rushing to complete the IPO by the end of March to meet its 2021/22 fiscal deficit target of 6.4% of gross domestic product (GDP), which is contingent on it raising around 600 billion Indian rupees ($8.03 billion) from the issue.

New Delhi sharply trimmed its divestment and privatisation plans for the fiscal year that ends on March 31 to 780 billion rupees from 1.75 trillion.

So far it has raised just 120 billion rupees from divesting stakes in state-run companies as it failed to privatise some of the firms including state-run refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL.NS) and two banks.

Investor roadshows for the offering, which at $8 billion is set to be the third largest insurance IPO globally, started earlier this week, two of the sources said.

SBI Caps, Citigroup, Nomura, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, along with five other domestic and international investment banks, are bookrunning lead managers for the deal.

LIC's upcoming offering has battered shares in other listed Indian insurers as investors trim their holdings to make room for the state-owned giant, fund managers and analysts have said. read more

The 66-year-old company dominates India's insurance sector with more than 280 million policies. It was the fifth biggest global insurer in terms of insurance premium collection in 2020, the latest year for which statistics are available.

(This story has been corrected reflect India has not yet privatised BPCL in paragraph 12)

Reporting by Scott Murdoch, Aftab Ahmed and Nupur Anand; editing by Sumeet Chatterjee, Jason Neely, John Stonestreet and Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Scott Murdoch has been a journalist for more than two decades working for Thomson Reuters and News Corp in Australia. He has specialised in financial journalism for most of his career and covers equity and debt capital markets across Asia and Australian M&A. He is based in Sydney.