Thu, Aug 09, 2012 - Page 15 News List

New Thai-Dutch battle over Tiger Beer’s brewery

BREW-HAHA?Kindest Place is offering 10 percent more than Heineken for the shares directly held by the conglomerate Fraser and Neave in Singapore

AFP, SINGAPORE

A Thai company on Tuesday raised the stakes in a battle for control of a Singapore brewer about to be taken over by Dutch giant Heineken by offering a higher price for the makers of Tiger Beer.

Kindest Place, a firm owned by a son-in-law of Thai drinks tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, offered S$55 for the 7.3 percent stake in Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) held directly by Singapore conglomerate Fraser and Neave (F&N).

This was 10 percent higher than the S$50 per share offered by Heineken for the 40 percent stake held directly and indirectly by F&N, a deal valued at S$5.1 billion (US$4.1 billion).

If successful, Kindest Place’s S$1.03 billion offer would raise its APB stake to nearly 16 percent versus Heineken’s current 42 percent equity.

F&N’s board had recommended acceptance of Heineken’s offer before the Thai proposal was announced.

Charoen’s Thai Beverage owns around 24 percent of F&N. The other major stockholder of F&N is Japan’s Kirin Holdings, which holds 15 percent, but has flatly ruled out a bid for the Singapore brewer.

APB reported revenues of S$773.42 million in its second quarter ending March 31, up 15 percent from a year ago, with most sales generated in Southeast Asia.

Analysts said the Thai offer, valid until Thursday next week, has put pressure on Heineken to sweeten its proposal.

However, company spokesman John-Paul Schuirink said the Dutch firm was already offering “superior value for all shareholders,” not just 7.3 percent of APB stock.

“We take note of this new offering,” he said, refusing to comment further.

The Thai offer represented a 12.6 percent premium over APB’s closing share price of S$48.84 on Tuesday.

The Asia-Pacific region accounts for more than a third of global beer consumption and industry analysts expect demand to grow further as sales taper off in mature markets like North America and Europe.

Whoever buys APB would control 30 breweries in 14 countries: Singapore, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

F&N, which also has interests in non-alcoholic drinks, property and publishing, said the Thai offer lapses at the close of business on Aug. 16.

F&N shares closed at S$8.28 on Tuesday, up 0.73 percent from the day before, while APB fell 0.02 percent to Sg$48.84.

Heineken shares were trading lower on the NYSE Euronext Amsterdam exchange after Kindest Place’s counter-offer.

Figures from global business consultancy Euromonitor showed that the Asia-Pacific region is the world’s biggest beer market with 35.3 percent of the total volume consumed globally last year, up from 34.4 percent in 2010.

Total beer consumption in the region was estimated at 67 billion liters last year, set to rise to nearly 85 billion liters by 2016, thanks to the region’s rapidly growing middle classes.

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