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Retail

Philippines supermarket chain MerryMart files for $31m IPO

Store operator targets 1,200 branches nationwide in expansion program

MerryMart’s owner sees the transition from traditional to modern retail continuing in the Philippines.   © Reuters

CEBU, Philippines -- MerryMart Consumer Corp., the grocery operator owned by young tycoon Edgar Sia II, has filed to raise up to 1.6 billion pesos ($31 million) in an initial public offering in the Philippines to finance its nationwide expansion program.

Sia, 43, the 28th richest person in the Philippines, is behind brands such as Mang Inasal, which was acquired by Jollibee Foods Corp. for 5 billion pesos in a two-step share purchase in 2010 and 2016, and listed real estate company DoubleDragon.

Based on a preliminary prospectus filed at the Securities and Exchange Commission, MerryMart, which opened its first store in April 2019, plans to sell 1.6 million primary shares -- representing about 21% of the company -- at 1 peso per share.

The offer period will be from March 23-27 and the target listing date on April 2. The retail chain has mandated PNB Capital and Investment as lead underwriter, issue manager, and bookrunner for the offering.

"Our family initially had no plans to expand the retail business, but our recent experiences made us realize the need for us to be in the modern retail business, and we believe we will be in it while the transition from traditional retail to modern retail is still ongoing," Sia earlier said.

MerryMart has a target of 1,200 branches nationwide to reach its systemwide sales revenue goal of 120 billion pesos. It plans to develop the brand through company-owned stores, as well as opening it for franchise to the public.

The company also expects to set up several MerryMart warehouses and distribution centers to support the MerryMart retail shops around the country and intends to locate these in DoubleDragon's CentralHub warehouse complexes.

MerryMart's IPO, if it goes through, could possibly revive a weak public market in the Philippines. Last year, Metro Pacific canceled the listing of its hospital unit while consumer tech company Cal-Comp Technology delayed a proposed $125-million IPO, citing market conditions.

However, 2019 ended with the $20-million IPO of Fruitas Holdings Inc, a food and beverage kiosk operator. But the target was lower than the initial figure of $23 million as the company said it had to trim the amount to ensure a "healthy performance of the stock upon listing."

For all of 2019, equity deals among companies listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange reached 95.22 billion pesos, less than half the amount of fresh capital raised in 2018, according to official data.

DealStreetAsia is a financial news site based in Singapore focused on corporate investment activity in Southeast Asia and India. Nikkei recently acquired a majority stake in the company.

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