Fairfax Seeking $1 Billion in IPO for Africa Investments

  • Canadian insurer to sell stock in Africa IPO on Toronto bourse
  • Fairfax has additional $500 million backing from partners

Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., the Canadian insurer that made its largest acquisition this week, is selling shares in an initial public offering for a fund that will make investments in Africa. The company is seeking to raise as much as $1 billion from the sale, people familiar with the matter said.

Fairfax, run by value investor Prem Watsa, is hunting for countries on the continent with fast-paced economic growth, according to a prospectus filed Friday. The Toronto-based firm has $416 million already committed from its own funds and partners including Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System and CI Investments Inc. for the venture, called Fairfax Africa Holdings Corp. A $1 billion IPO would be the largest in Canada since Hydro One Ltd. raised C$1.8 billion ($1.33 billion) last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We believe Africa will be transformed in the coming years by positive demographic trends led by a large emerging middle class, substantially improved political stability and governance, and increased integration with global markets," Watsa said in a press release announcing the fund. RBC Capital Markets is leading the IPO.

This would be the insurer’s second public fund specific to a region. Two years ago, Fairfax offered shares in an investment vehicle that targeted Indian firms, securing C$500 million from partners and its own funds, and raising about $1 billion. After debuting at $10 a share in 2015, the Fairfax India Holdings Corp. stock is up 15 percent to $11.50. The Africa shares would also be sold on the Toronto Stock Exchange at $10 each.

Fairfax this week agreed to buy Allied World Assurance Co. for $4.9 billion in cash and stock in Chief Executive Officer Watsa’s biggest purchase.

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