Tue, 07 Jul 2015

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE (NEWS.GNOM.ES) – U.S. cigarette giant Philip Morris International Inc plans to sell a stake worth at least $1 billion in Indonesian unit PT HM Sampoerna Tbk to comply with free-float rules, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

Philip Morris currently owns 98.18 percent of Sampoerna, Indonesia’s biggest cigarette maker by market value and which is worth $23 billion.

Philip Morris has short-listed Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse AG, JPMorgan, Citigroup and Mandiri Sekuritas to sell down its holding by at least 5.68 percent, to make the publicly available shares in Sampoerna equivalent to at least 7.5 percent of its total share base, one of the sources said.

Both people declined to be named due to the confidentiality of the matter.

The stock exchange requires all listed Indonesian firms to have a free float of at least 7.5 percent by Jan. 30, 2016. It was not clear when Philip Morris planned to sell its stake, the sources added.

Sampoerna shares rose 0.8 percent on Monday, outperforming the broader Jakarta stock exchange <.JKSE>, which was down 1.2 percent.

The company has previously said it was exploring ways to comply with the new free-float requirement.

Citigroup declined comment, while Goldman, Credit Suisse and JPMorgan did not give an immediate comment. Mandiri Sekuritas was not immediately available to comment.

Sampoerna sells some of the most popular cigarette brands in Indonesia, a country where smoking remains widespread. It said it had a market share of nearly 35 percent last year.

(Reporting by Eveline Danubrata, S. Anuradha of IFR and Anshuman Daga; Additional reporting by Cindy Silviana and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath and Miral Fahmy)