Malaysian plantation giant Felda could raise $3 billion in what would be Asia's biggest IPO of this year, according to a prospectus unveiled Thursday by Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The targeted June 28 listing of Felda Global Ventures will be the biggest worldwide this year after Facebook's mammoth $16 billion issue earlier in May, and is being pitched by Najib as a boon to the rural voters he is courting in upcoming elections.
Felda Global Ventures Holding (FGV), the world's third-largest oil palm plantations operator, said it would offer up to 2.19 billion ordinary shares, aiming to raise some 9.96 billion ringgit ($3.15 billion).
Najib had announced plans in October to float the commercial arm of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), a government agency that has provided land to rural poor.
The listing, part of a larger strategy to divest state-run companies, is aimed at turning FGV into a global commodities player by expanding into palm oil processing and other downstream businesses.
"The listing will fulfill the demands (of Felda settlers) that Felda be developed... It is a big transformation," Najib said when launching the prospectus at a ceremony in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
"We want to create wealth."
The government agency is the world's biggest plantation entity at 850,000 hectares (2.1 million acres).
Besides an oil-palm replanting programme, the proceeds will also be used for potential land acquisitions in Southeast Asia and Africa for cultivation of oil palm and rubber, FGV said in a press release.
Najib announced earlier this month that, as part of the listing plan, each of the more than 112,000 Felda families would receive 15,000 ringgit.
But vocal farmers and the political opposition have warned smallholders who have tilled Felda-granted plots for decades could be exposed to more risk under the complicated scheme.
FGV president and chief operating officer Sabri Ahmad said at the launch that he was confident of successfully transforming Felda.
"There have been many challenges in the process of listing FGV but together we have overcome these obstacles and we now stand at the threshold of something new and exciting," he said.
Najib is expected to seek a fresh mandate soon, and the rural Malay vote personified by Felda settlers is seen as critical. His ruling National Front coalition suffered unprecedented losses in the last election in 2008.