Top Glove's $1.3b HK listing delayed as it seeks to resolve US import ban: Sources

Top Glove in late April flagged that it would sell 793.5 million shares in the listing, half of what it proposed in February.
Top Glove in late April flagged that it would sell 793.5 million shares in the listing, half of what it proposed in February.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Top Glove Corporation's plan to list in Hong Kong and raise up to US$1 billion (S$1.32 billion) has been delayed as the world's largest rubber glove maker seeks to resolve a US import ban on its products, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The Malaysian firm, which is already listed in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, in late April flagged that it would sell 793.5 million shares in the listing, half of what it proposed in its application to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in February.

But the deal has stalled as the company awaits indications from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on whether an import ban would be lifted any time soon, the sources told Reuters.

Potential investors questioned Top Glove and its advisers on the sanctions during preliminary briefings ahead of the listing, they said.

Top Glove had hoped to complete the listing by the end of the second quarter of this year, the sources said.

The company did not respond to a request for comment. The sources could not be named as the information has not yet been made public.

CBP prohibited the import of Top Glove products last year, saying it had found reasonable evidence at the company's production facilities across Malaysia indicative of forced labour practices.

The agency said in March that it had found evidence of multiple forced labour indicators in Top Glove's production process, including debt bondage, excessive overtime, abusive working and living conditions and retention of identity documents, and directed its officials to seize goods from the manufacturer.

Earnings forecasts

The North American market accounts for 22 per cent of Top Glove's total sales volume, according to its latest accounts.

Analysts had largely kept their earnings forecasts for the company intact and said diversion of trade to other markets could cushion the impact of sales loss in the United States market, as the pandemic continued.

CBP, in an e-mail response to Reuters, said the length of the review process varies with the individual facts and circumstances of each case.

"CBP will not modify or revoke a Forced Labour Finding until it has information that all indicators of forced labour identified by the agency have been fully remediated and it is demonstrated that forced labour is no longer being used to produce the goods targeted," it said.

Top Glove said in April that it has resolved all indicators of forced labour in its operations and that this had been verified by the London-based ethical trade consultant Impactt.

The company has argued that a Hong Kong listing is not urgent as it has RM2.36 billion (S$$760 million) cash on its balance sheet, the sources said.

Instead, a listing is being pursued to diversify the firm's shareholder base and take advantage of the increased liquidity in Hong Kong's markets compared with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, one of the sources added.