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Hutchison Whampoa may list Watsons healthcare unit - report

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, controlled by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, is planning to float its healthcare and beauty retail business Watsons within the next 12 to 18 months, a Hong Kong newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The Hong Kong Economic Times, quoting market sources, said the initial public offering could raise between $8-$10 billion.

The report did not specify whether the listing is related to A S Watson Group, which is the retail arm of Hutchison, or just the chain stores operated under the Watsons brand.

Hutchison Whampoa shares rose more than 3.2 percent to their highest since February 2011 on Wednesday, compared with a 1.1 percent rise in the benchmark Hong Kong share index by late morning with some traders attributing the rise to the media report.

A Hutchison spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Hutchison is currently undertaking a strategic review of its ParknShop supermarket business and has set an asking price of between $3-$4 billion.

Li's business empire spans across ports to telecom to real estate and his shrewd business dealings have earned him an the nickname "superman" in the local media.

His other retail operations also include electronics chain Fortress. Hutchison earned about 53 percent of its 2012 revenue from the retail sector.

Li plans to use the sale proceeds to expand Hutchison's health and beauty retail operations, which have a bigger global footprint and offer higher margins compared with the supermarket business, Reuters previously reported.

(Reporting by Alice Woodhouse; Additional reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Matt Driskill)