Siam cement groups packaging unit is set to raise nearly $1.5bn in an initial public offering, signalling investor confidence in one of thailands industrial champions despite economic woes and anti-government protests.

Scg packaging on thursday priced shares at bt35 ($1.12) each, or at the top end of an indicated range, people close to the ipo told the financial times. scg did not respond to requests for comment on the pricing, which was first reported by reuters.

The share offering is thailands biggest since central retails $2.5bn stock market listing in early february, which was priced at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. that ipo is the countrys largest on record and south-east asias biggest this year.

Scg is one of thailands biggest industrial companies. alongside one of south-east asias leading packaging businesses, it operates large cement and petrochemicals units that have been hit by falling regional consumption, exports and construction due to the pandemic.

The thai parent groups largest shareholder is king maha vajiralongkorn, who owns a 33.6 per cent stake.the packaging unit will sell up to 1.3bn shares, or nearly 30 per cent of the total issued.

Thailands economy, south-east asias second-largest, is set to contract by 7.8 per cent this year, the central bank said this week. it forecasts the economy will take at least two years to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

A youth protest movement has for the past three months been confronting the government of prayuth chan-ocha and the powers of the monarchy, causing some institutional investors to withdraw funds from thailand. the countrys stock market has fallen nearly 20 per cent this year.

Scg benefits from its large manufacturing hub in vietnam, which has emerged as an alternative to china for multinational exporters as trade frictions between washington and beijing escalate. even before the pandemic, vietnam was one of asias fastest-growing economies.

Packaging is the best growth offering among the three key businesses of siam cement group, said suchart techaposai, head of thailand research at brokerage clsa. looking forward, they can profit from asean population growth, the growing middle class, and their presence in vietnam.

Stock market listings in south-east asia have proved resilient despite the pandemic. according to refinitiv data, regional ipos have raised $4.71bn this year, excluding scg packagings proposed listing. that is down only slightly from $5.75bn in the same period a year ago.

In the philippines, broadband provider converge ict solutions this week began a roadshow for a share offering set to raise up to 32.9bn pesos ($680m) in what is expected to be the countrys biggest ever ipo.

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