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Li Ka-shing's Watson to raise up to US$6 billion in June IPO: report

HONG KONG--Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing is planning to raise up US$6 billion through a dual listing of his flagship retail chain in Hong Kong and London, a report said Tuesday, in what would be the world's biggest initial public offering since late 2012.

Li is aiming to sell shares in A.S. Watson — part of his vast Hutchison Whampoa conglomerate — by the end of June, the Wall Street Journal reported, quoting a person familiar with the situation.

Li, 85, said in February that Watson will be listed in two places with one of them definitely being the Chinese financial hub. “No matter what, Watson will definitely list in two locations, with Hong Kong being one of them,” the Journal reported Li as saying at the time.

Tuesday's report said HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America were involved with preparations for the IPOs, adding that it plans to submit a listing application to the Hong Kong stock exchange as early as this week.

The firm was not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP.

If it manages to raise the US$6 billion, it would be the biggest IPO since Japan Airlines relisted in Tokyo in September.

A.S. Watson owns health and beauty retailer Superdrug, which has more than 870 stores in Britain and Ireland, as well as the ParknShop grocery chain in Hong Kong.

Li had last year aborted an attempt to sell ParknShop after suitors — among them Australia's Woolworth Ltd. — failed to meet his US$3 billion to US$4 billion asking price.

Hutchison Whampoa said in February it saw a 20 percent year on year increase in net profits for 2013, fuelled by growth in its port, hotel and property divisions, despite challenging global markets.

Li started out in business as a plastic flower-maker but now commands a vast empire through Cheung Kong Holdings and Hutchison Whampoa, with global assets in property, telecoms, utilities, ports and retail.

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