Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Heineken clears Thai hurdle to buy Singapore brewer APB

SINGAPORE: Dutch beer giant Heineken on Wednesday moved one step closer to a US$4.6 billion takeover of top Asian brewer APB when it gained the backing of a Thai rival ahead of a vote on the issue.

Thai Beverage (ThaiBev) and TCC Assets, both controlled by tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, said in a joint statement with Heineken that they will support the Dutch firm's bid to gain control of Asia-Pacific Breweries.

Heineken in turn promised not to make a counter-offer for APB's parent company Fraser and Neave (F&N), which the Thais want to take over.

Heineken already owns 42 per cent of Singapore-based APB and offered S$5.6 billion (US$4.6 billion) for the 40 per cent stake held by F&N, which is 30 per cent controlled by the Thai firms.

In Wednesday's joint statement to the Singapore Exchange, Heineken said it "irrevocably undertakes not to make a general offer" for F&N, in which it currently has no stake.

The Thais' surprise offer last week to buy all of F&N had cast doubt on Heineken's offer for APB, which is to be decided at an extraordinary general meeting of F&N shareholders on September 28.

APB, the crown jewel of F&N, makes Tiger Beer and other popular brands in Asia, where beer consumption is rapidly growing as sales taper off in mature markets like Europe, Heineken's traditional base.

ThaiBev makes Chang Beer and is also involved in food and non-alcoholic drinks.

According to Forbes business magazine, Charoen is the third richest person in Thailand with an estimated fortune of $6.2 billion as of August, with the bulk of his money coming from his beverage business.

APB, which has breweries in 14 countries including China, reported in August that its revenues for the third quarter to June rose almost 10 per cent to S$781.33 million from a year ago.

Heineken's bid for control of APB is seen as part of an attempt to have an edge over other rivals in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) market of some 600 million consumers as well as China.

Apart from Tiger and Chang Beer, San Miguel from the Philippines and Indonesia's Bintang, also owned by APB, are competing with Heineken, Denmark's Carlsberg and other brands from developed economies.

Beer consumption in nine ASEAN countries totalled 6.84 billion litres in 2011, up around 6.2 per cent from 2010, with Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines leading the market, data from research firm Euromonitor showed.

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