Cream of the crop: Picking the best deals in Asia

In challenging conditions, 2018 saw remarkable progress on the deal making front, with many first or biggest ever deals, and a year when sustainable finance rose to the fore

The year 2018 was undoubtedly challenging. It was the year when economic storm clouds brew on the horizon, when many investors lost money, and when several IPOs are even now still trading below water.

But 2018 was also characterized by a number of landmark and innovative transactions that defined the capital markets across the region. Issuers and borrowers showcased new deal structures that enabled them to access the markets to meet their funding requirements amid a volatile market backdrop. Challenging conditions were exacerbated by rising interest rates, heightened Sino-US trade tensions and China's economic slowdown.

As the board of editors at The Asset selected the winners of the regional deals in The Triple A Asset Awards one theme that resonated in 2018 was the drive towards sustainable financing, with issuers and borrowers embracing climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as meet their environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda.

A deal that clearly reflected this trend in 2018 was the US$95 million senior secured notes for Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility, a scheme which aims to bring long-term finance to projects and companies that stimulate green growth and improve the rural livelihoods in Indonesia.

Supported by an amortizing loan partially guaranteed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the deal represented the first sustainability project bond in Asia and the first project bond in a rubber plantation.

In another first deal of its kind in the region, the Korea Housing Finance Corporation (KHFC) successfully priced in October 2018 the first ever social covered bond offering in Asia and the first ever euro covered bond deal out of Korea and for the KHFC. The net proceeds from the deal will be used exclusively to purchase the company's mortgage loans that were directed to support low- to moderate income individuals. The proceeds also aim to stabilize and improve the structure of Korea's mortgage loan market in accordance with KHFC's social bond framework.

Meanwhile, New World China Land joined the green bandwagon as it printed its inaugural green bond transaction in November 2018, amounting to US$310 million. The company will use the proceeds to finance two certified environmental projects in the so-called Greater Bay Area.

Korea Water Resources Corporation priced in May the first ever water bond out of Asia amounting to US$300 million. The fund raising was designed to finance/refinance projects contributing to climate change adaptation, offer improved accessibility of sustainable water management systems, along with the development of renewable energy sources.

The first sustainability-linked club loan in Asia for Olam International, amounting to US$500 million, was cited as the Best Sustainability Loan. The facility links the interest rate on the loan to achieving clear sustainability targets, with Olam committed to meeting improvement targets for a comprehensive range of ESG metrics.

In the equity space, the deal that stood out in 2018 was the US$2.203 billion equity raising by Vinhomes Joint Stock Company of Vietnam, comprising of US$1.35 billion fully marketed initial public offering (IPO) and the US$853 million pre-IPO placement by GIC of Singapore.

Voted as the Best Equity and Best IPO for 2018, this was the largest ever Asian frontier markets equity offering and exemplified Vietnam's attraction to overseas investors. Utilizing the dual-track process that maximized the proceeds, the IPO was able to engage seven top-tier institutional long-only funds as cornerstone investors and was priced at the top of the marketing range despite turbulent market conditions.

The US$1.7 billion IPO by China's innovative and fast-growing new e-commerce platform Pinduoduo was selected as the Best ADR. It was the largest US IPO by market cap for an IPO since Alibaba in 2014 and has so far delivered stellar aftermarket performance.

Perhaps feeling a sensation akin to winning the lottery many times over, Naspers netted US$9.8 billion through selling a 2% stake in Tencent Holdings by way of an accelerated bookbuild offering. In winning the Best Block Trade award, the deal represented the largest non-privatization secondary follow-on ever and the largest global tech follow-on offering in history.

A noteworthy aspect to this deal is that Naspers still holds a 31% stake in the Chinese Internet-based technology enterprise, a post-deal arrangement enough to make other investors green with envy! One can only imagine the size of the fortune the South African media and e-commerce group still sits on, and considering that this enterprise "only" invested US$32 million in the then Chinese start-up in 2001.

In another standout deal, LG Chem of Korea raised US$608.2 million equivalent through a dual-currency convertible bond (CB) in April 2018 that represented the first ever undocumented CB offering by a Korean issuer. It was also the first ever undocumented CB issuance in non-Japan Asia to list on Vienna exchange and the largest Korean CB since 2011. The euro tranche of the deal likewise achieved the highest premium for a Korean issuer since the global financial crisis and by an Asia-Pacific (ex-Japan) issuer in 2018.

In the debt capital markets space, the honours for the Best Bond and Best Sovereign Bond were awarded to the People's Republic of China for its triple tranche offering totalling US$3 billion. This was the largest ever fund raising conducted by the China Ministry of Finance in the US dollar bond market and it included its first 30-year tranche amounting to US$500 million.

The deal was priced amid a volatile period in the market and the outcome – with the order book peaking at US$18 billion – demonstrates the strength of the China sovereign credit.

The Development Bank of Mongolia also made a huge impression in the bond market in winning the Best Quasi-sovereign Bond. This bank accessed the market for US$500 million – marking the first time in so doing without a government guarantee, thus setting an important benchmark for the bank, the sovereign and other potential Mongolian issuers.

The Best Corporate Bond and Best High-yield Bond accolades went to Yingde Gases Group Company, which raised US$500 million in senior notes for its first offshore debt financing since 2011. The deal highlights the issuer's turnaround story following the shareholders' dispute and loan covenants breached, which led to the company's credit ratings being downgraded by five notches in late 2016. Private equity firm PAG acquired and privatized Yingde in 2017, putting the enterprise back on the road to recovery.

Another interesting transaction in 2018 was the debut bond by Thai hospitality and leisure group Minor International. The company in late November 2018 printed a US$300 million issue of perpetual non-call three senior capital securities guaranteed by Bangkok Bank.

The deal structure incorporates a third party and backstop put facility from Bangkok Bank – the first such transaction to be executed in Thailand and the first in Asia-Pacific outside of the Korean precedents. One of the key structural elements on the trade includes the unconditional and irrevocable guarantee by Bangkok Bank until the non-call acquisition date for any payment obligation that crystalizes and is not settled by the issuer.

In terms of M&A, the Best Cross-border Deal was awarded to Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi's US$5.9 billion acquisition of Fullerton Financial Holdings' entire 73.8% stake in Bank Danamon of Indonesia. This was the largest ever Indonesian and Southeast Asian banking sector and M&A transaction, facilitating the infusion of new capital into the Indonesian banking system.

One of the most proficient issuers/borrowers in the debt capital markets in 2018, Reliance Industries of India, successfully closed in November US$2.653 billion syndicated term loan facilities to refinance existing indebtedness. The general syndication was a blowout success, receiving commitments from 23 banks, in what was the most widely syndicated loan by Reliance ever.

Another deal that captured market attention in 2018 was the US$458 million collateralized loan obligation (CLO) by Bayfront Infrastructure Capital. With Clifford Capital acting as the sponsor, the deal represented the first project finance CLO transaction in Asia, creating a new source of liquidity for the project finance space in the region.

In another unique securitization deal, Gamma Paramount Limited raised HK$500 million (US$64.10 million) through a senior securitized lending facility, with WeLend as the originator. This was the first securitization financing transaction by Citi for a leading fintech company in Asia.

The Best Leveraged Buyout Deal award went to Belle International Holdings, which raised HK$30 billion in senior syndicated term loan facility. This was the largest ever sponsor-led recapitalization deal in Asia-Pacific. The facility was part of an amendment and upsize exercise of the original HK$28 billion senior secured credit facilities, which supported the privatization of Belle International in 2017.

The US$300 million unrated bonds raised by Korea Air Lines was voted as the Best Transport Finance Deal. This was the first ever non-investment grade bond transaction from Korea since Hynix Semiconductor in 2007, as well as the company's first standalone senior unsecured offering in international capital markets.

The award for most innovative deal went to Bank of Communications, which securitized 9.314 billion yuan (US$1.37 billion) worth of residential mortgage-backed securities. The transaction represented the first time that blockchain technology was applied in a capital markets deal.

To see the full list of Best Sustainable Finance Regional Deals 2018 please click here.

To see the full list of Best Equity Regional Deals 2018 please click here.

To see the full list of Best Fixed Income Regional Deals 2018 please click here.

To see the full list of M&A/Structured Finance Regional Deals 2018 please click here.

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Date

11 Jan 2019

Channel

Capital Markets

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