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ICICI Prudential share sale oversubscribed in India IPO boom

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- The $910 million initial share sale of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, a unit of India's biggest private lender ICICI Bank, drew a strong demand from investors, who have been lapping up initial public offerings in Asia's third-largest economy.

ICICI Prudential's offer, the biggest in nearly six years, was oversubscribed more than 10 times. India's IPO market is witnessing a surge as investors bet that the south Asian nation's policy reforms would spur economic growth. In the first half of this year, Indian companies raised as much as $1 billion, according to researcher Prime Database.

The IPO received bids for nearly 1.38 billion shares, or 10.4 times the 132 million shares on offer, according to provisional data on the National Stock Exchange. The company had set a price band of 300 rupees ($4.48) to 334 rupees a share for the offering that valued the insurer at about 400 billion rupees. ICICI Bank owns nearly 68% of the venture.

The institutional part of the offer got bids for 259 million shares, or 7.9 times the 32.6 million shares on offer, boosted by foreigners bidding for 211 million shares. The retail portion got bids of 57 million shares, or 0.44 times the 25 million shares on offer, for that category.

The company had earlier this week said it is raising 16.35 billion rupees by selling 48.96 million shares at 334 rupees apiece to 38 anchor investors led by the government of Singapore and Nomura India Investment Fund Mother fund and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The U.K.'s Prudential PLC, which owns about 26% of the insurer, is not selling any stake in the IPO. In the fiscal year that ended in March, ICICI Prudential earned a net premium of 189.99 billion rupees, the company said in a regulatory filing.

ICICI Prudential's is the first IPO since India last year eased foreign holdings rules in insurance companies. The new rules allow foreign companies to own up to 49% stake in local insurance ventures from 26%.

While India remains an underpenetrated insurance market offering huge room for companies like ICICI Prudential to grow, many brokerages said the valuation of the issue appear to be stretched as it leaves little for investors.

At the price band of 300 rupees to 334 rupees, the issue is offered at 3.1 times to 3.4 times its fiscal year 2016 embedded value, an industry gauge for the value of life insurance portfolio, Angel Broking said in a report. "While the company has enough scope for growth in future, we believe the issue is fully priced in and hence we have Neutral rating on the issue."

Kotak Institutional Equities said it values ICICI Prudential at 410 billion rupees as on June 2018 and "finds a 5%-10% downside to the IPO price band." Still, it asked investors to subscribe to the issue.

To be sure, some brokerages remain bullish about the offer.

"Strong and healthy financials and opportunities to grow in India through its wide branch network and bancassurance channel augur well for ICICI Prudential in terms of maintaining its growth momentum," Mumbai-based brokerage Asit C. Mehta said in a note. The brokerage has a Subscribe rating on the issue.

Shares of ICICI Bank fell 0.86% in Mumbai trading, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex lost 0.06%.

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