Astro All Asia Networks, the Malaysian pay-TV operator that owns Hong Kong film studio Celestial Pictures, is to float on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange later this month.

The flotation, handled by Goldman Sachs and Malaysian investment bank CIMB, is expected to raise up to $552m (M$2.1bn) of fresh cash. After the flotation the group will remain controlled by Ananda Krishnan, Malaysia's richest man, but it should be able to pay down a significant portion of its outstanding debt.

The group as a whole has yet to turn a profit and it is widely believed that Celestial, for which it paid $140m, has yet to make it into the black either. Celestial headed by former Columbia TV executive William Pfeiffer has a library of over 700 Shaw Brothers titles that it is busily restoring, releasing and re-making.

With the price of those shares being sold to retail investors set at $0.995 (M$3.8) apiece analysts now expect Astro to achieve a market value of $1.6bn-$1.9bn. Bookbuilding for the larger institutional offer begins next week (Oct 11).