By Liz Lee
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Shares of poultry producer Leong Hup International rose as much as 8.2% on its market debut on Thursday, signaling firm appetite for Malaysia's largest IPO in almost two years.
The shares hit a high of 1.19 ringgit in the first few minutes of trade after the initial public offering (IPO) was priced at 1.10 ringgit per share, giving Leong Hup a market capitalization of 4.02 billion ringgit ($964 million).
They pared some gains to trade at 1.12 ringgit at the midday break. The benchmark exchange was down 0.15%.
Shares in smaller rivals LTKM Bhd and TPC Plus Bhd were down 4.6% and 5.6%, respectively, while DBE Gurney Resources Bhd was unchanged.
Leong Hup raised 1.03 billion ringgit ($247 million) from the IPO and, if the overallotment option is fully exercised, it would raise a total of 1.2 billion ringgit.
The initial target was to raise $600 million from the IPO but the offer size was cut last month as investor demand softened in a choppy market, sources have said.
The IPO is Malaysia's first since Lotte Chemical Titan's issue in July 2017.
Leong Hup is majority-owned by the founding Lau family and also backed by private-equity firm Affinity Equity Partners, both of whom remain as shareholders.
It is one of the largest fully integrated producers of poultry, eggs and livestock feed in Southeast Asia, and also operates in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
Leong Hup is exploring opportunities to set up operations in Cambodia, where it already exports feed and chicks to from its Vietnamese operation.
CFO Chew Eng Loke said sales in Cambodia have been promising and a warehouse is under construction to boost growth.
"Once the sales volume of day-old chicks reach adequate scale, we will then establish breeder farms to supply the market instead of exporting from Vietnam," he told Reuters.
Leong Hup's IPO secured 10 cornerstone investors, including domestic pension fund Employees Provident Fund, insurer AIA Bhd and European commodities house Louis Dreyfus Company.
Leong Hup had a profit of 60.6 million ringgit for the quarter ended March 31, a 15% rise from a year earlier. Revenue rose 11.9% to 1.51 billion ringgit.
(Reporting by Liz Lee; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Himani Sarkar)