Wednesday September 12, 2012
ThaiBev eyes F&N Ltd
Thai Beverage teaming up with a partner in bid for soft drinks maker
SINGAPORE: Thai Beverage PCL is teaming up with a partner to bid for Fraser and Neave Ltd (F&N), moving the Thai group a step closer to snapping up the conglomerate's property and soft drinks businesses should F&N sell its prized beer unit to Heineken NV.
For two months, ThaiBev and Heineken battled for control of Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd (APB), the maker of Tiger beer. Eventually, Heineken sweetened its offer and won over F&N, which agreed to sell its APB stake to the Dutch brewer.
The deal requires approval from F&N shareholders, including ThaiBev. Should the Thai group gain control of F&N, it could potentially block the transaction.
But sources with knowledge of ThaiBev's plans say the group is now shifting its focus to F&N - a drinks distributor and holder of one of Asia's biggest real estate portfolios - after succeeding in extracting a better deal from Heineken.
“A party acting in concert with the company is exploring the possibility of making an offer for F&N,” ThaiBev, controlled by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, said in a filing on the Singapore Exchange early yesterday. It did not identify the partner.
ThaiBev stands to gain S$1.16bil (US$939.65mil) based on their 29% stake in F&N, and will get more if it takes over the Singapore conglomerate. Any move to block the US$6.3bil Heineken deal will force the Dutch brewer to walk away, putting the shares in F&N and APB under pressure.
Heineken declined to comment on ThaiBev's latest move.
F&N has scheduled a shareholder vote on Sept 28 to approve the sale of a 40% stake in APB to Heineken. ThaiBev is F&N's biggest shareholder, followed by Japan's Kirin Holdings Ltd.
Heineken, already a direct shareholder in APB, raised its offer to buy out APB shares held by F&N and minority shareholders last month.
The move was seen as an attempt to fend off Charoen in what was previously a battle for control of a leading beer brand in South-East Asia.
The Thai group, facing a cash windfall from the APB sale, is now unlikely to take further steps in squeezing Heineken's offer, sources familiar with the matter said, declining to be identified because details of the plan were confidential.
A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Charoen is now taking steps to ensure that his group is in a strong position to influence the outcome of the potential breakup of F&N after extracting a higher offer from Heineken.
ThaiBev has spent S$3.6bil to build its stake in F&N to 29%. The purchase includes a block of F&N shares the Thai brewer acquired from Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp group at S$8.88 each.
F&N shares were trading at S$8.54 in early trading yesterday, down 0.12%.
ThaiBev's “holding announcement” did not state whether the partner was a member of Charoen's TCC Group or an unrelated firm. - Reuters