Heineken unsettled by Thai tycoon’s move

  • Business
  • Thursday, 19 Jul 2012

SINGAPORE: Heineken, the world's third largest brewer, warned it would act to protect its interests in Asia, after the founder of Thailand's leading beer and spirits group bid for a stake worth US$1.6bil in its partner in the region.

The Asia-Pacific region is a fast-growing one for Heineken, where it brews Tiger Beer with Singaporean partner Fraser and Neave (F&N).

Thai Beverage pcl (ThaiBev), controlled by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, confirmed yesterday that it was in talks to buy an 18.2% stake in Heineken's Asian partner from Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC) and its insurance unit.

If Charoen is successful, his entity will emerge as F&N's biggest shareholder, followed by Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings Co. Kirin declined to comment on ThaiBev's action.

Charoen's surprise move jolted Heineken, forcing it to express concern over what it called a sudden development. F&N and Heineken jointly control Asia Pacific Breweries, whose flagship brand is Tiger Beer.

“It's a pretty aggressive move from the Thai company,” a Singapore-based investment banker who advises consumer companies said. “Financing is not an issue for the family, but the endgame is not clear.”

Charoen has also offered to buy a 7.9% holding in Asia Pacific Breweries, a US$598mil stake that is also owned by OCBC and its insurance unit, Great Eastern Holdings. The two stakes were valued at US$2.3bil at Tuesday's closing price.

Charoen is Thailand's third richest man, with a net worth of US$4.8bil, according to Forbes. He took ThaiBev, Thailand's largest brewer and distiller, public in Singapore in 2006. He has bet heavily on real estate and his privately held TCC Land owns Bangkok tech mall Pantip Plaza.

Charoen also owns hotel chains in Manhattan and Australia, and residential and commercial buildings in Singapore and Thailand.

Heineken said on Tuesday it was considering its options. “We are seeking all necessary assurances and will take any appropriate action in order to safeguard our interests,” the company said. - Reuters

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