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UPDATE 2-Oprah-backed Oatly raises $1.4 billion in IPO

(Updates with statement from Oatly)

May 19 (Reuters) - Swedish vegan milk maker Oatly Group AB , which counts celebrities Oprah Winfrey and Natalie Portman among its backers, raised $1.4 billion in its U.S. initial public offering on Wednesday, the company said in a statement.

The company, whose investors also include rapper Jay Z and former Starbucks Corp head Howard Schultz, said it priced 84.4 million American depositary shares in the initial public offering at $17 each, at the top of its indicated range. This implies a valuation for the company of $10 billion.

Oatly’s share sale comes in the middle of a crucial juncture for the U.S. IPO market, which is facing significant volatility due to inflation fears that have forced investors to abandon high-growth stocks, focusing on value stocks instead.

The outcome of offerings this week is being watched for clues on the near-term future of the U.S. capital markets, which have witnessed a stunning rally over the past 15 months as share sales of hundreds of companies, including big names such as Airbnb, Snowflake and DoorDash, breached all-time records.

Last week, at least three IPOs, including mortgage insurer Enact Holdings Inc and hearing care services company Hear.com, were pulled due to choppy market conditions.

The Malmö, Sweden based maker of dairy alternatives sells its products in more than 20 markets across Europe, the United States and China. Known primarily for its oat milk products, it has tie-ups with several cafes in the United States, including Starbucks. It also sells its products online and through food retailers like Target Corp and Tesco.

The stock market listing comes at a time when the plant-based food sector continues to attract mainstream investor attention, especially as fast-food chains and upscale restaurants create new menus to draw in health and environment-conscious diners.

Much of the demand for plant-based food is being led by millennials and generation Z consumers, who are more than willing to spend on sustainable products that are also healthy.

Last year, Oatly, founded by brothers Rickard and Björn Öste in 1990, raised $200 million in a star-studded investment round led by private equity firm Blackstone Group and including Winfrey, Portman, an entertainment company founded by Jay Z and Schultz.

Oatly’s biggest shareholder is a partnership between Belgian investment firm Verlinvest and an entity called Blossom Key Holdings, which is controlled by China Resources Co Ltd, a Chinese government-owned company.

Verlinvest is the investment company of the family behind brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev. Private equity firm Blackstone also owns a sizable stake in Oatly.

Morgan Stanley, J.P.Morgan and Credit Suisse are among the lead underwriters for the offering. (Reporting by Echo Wang in New York, Additional reporting by Radhika Anilkumar Editing by Greg Roumeliotis and Richard Pullin)

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