ThaiBev mulls working with partner to offer for F&N
THAI Beverage PCL said it may work with a partner to make an offer for Fraser and Neave Ltd (F&N), which could potentially thwart moves by Dutch brewer Heineken to take full control of Tiger Beer maker Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd.
“The board understands that a party acting in concert with the company is exploring the possibility of making an offer for F&N,” ThaiBev said in an filing on the Singapore Exchange early on Tuesday.
ThaiBev, controlled by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, is F&N’s biggest shareholder with a 29% stake. It said it was not seeking funding for a general offer for the Singaporean drinks and property conglomerate.
The move comes as F&N shareholders, which include Japan’s Kirin Holdings, prepare for a crucial vote on Sept 28 on the proposed sale of a 40% stake in Tiger beer maker Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd to Heineken.
Heineken, which already has a stake in APB, raised its offer last month to buy out APB shares held by F&N and minority shareholders to US$6.3 billion (RM19.54 billion). The move was seen as an attempt to fend off Charoen in a battle for control of a leading brand in the fast-growing Southeast Asian beer market.
Last week, F&N’s board said Heineken, its partner in a venture that owns 65% of APB, had first right of refusal on its shares.
ThaiBev’s “holding announcement” did not say whether the unnamed party was a member of Charoen’s TCC Group or an unrelated firm. Analysts have speculated previously he may try to bring in a partner to buy part of F&N’s large property holdings.
ThaiBev said it has been in talks with banks to refinance a loan taken out to fund its initial stake purchase in F&N. Under Singapore law, it would be required to bid for all of F&N if its holding rose to 30%.
“The company is not seeking funding for a potential general offer for F&N,” it said.
On Monday, Basis Point reported, citing banking sources, ThaiBev was seeking a loan of around S$9 billion (RM22.59 billion) and had asked several lenders, including Singapore, Malaysian and Japanese banks, to submit proposals.
Analysts have cautioned against discounting Charoen, who is known for being a dogged fighter. The billionaire is Thailand’s third-richest man with an estimated net worth of US$6.2 billion, according to the latest Forbes report.
Charoen has consistently shown in the past a “willingness to take risks and face down competitors,” said Mykolas Rambus, CEO of Singapore-based consultancy Wealth-X.
F&N’s property business, worth over S$8 billion, has attracted potential investors such as the property private equity arm of Blackstone Group LP, a source with knowledge of the matter had said previously.