Heineken to take over 90% of top Asian brewer APB

19th September 2012, Comments 0 comments

Dutch beer giant Heineken said Wednesday it was buying a further 8.6 percent of top Asian brewer APB, meaning it will soon own over 90 percent of the company and gain a critical edge in Asia.

"Heineken has entered into an agreement with Kindest Place Groups Limited to acquire KPG's 22,207,130 shares in Asia Pacific Breweries Limited, representing 8.6% of the total issued share capital of APB," a statement said.

The deal, to be completed not later than October 1, is worth around 740 million euros ($962 million).

The announcement came after Thai rival Thai Beverage (ThaiBev) and TCC Assets, both controlled by tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, agreed to support Heineken'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 percent of Singapore-based APB and offered Sg$5.6 billion ($4.6 billion) for the 40 percent stake held by F&N.

This has to be ratified at an extraordinary general meeting of F&N shareholders on September 28.

Until Wednesday's compromise was announced, Heineken's bid was in doubt after ThaiBev and TCC Assets, which jointly own 30 percent of F&N, last week offered other owners Sg$8.7 billion to take over the group.

In a joint statement to the Singapore Exchange, the Thais promised to vote in favour of Heineken's offer while the Dutch brewer said it "irrevocably undertakes not to make a general offer" for F&N.

Heineken had been forced to raise its original offer price of Sg$50 a share for APB shares to fend off the Thai billionaire and parties linked to him which were building up stakes in the Singapore brewer.

Shares of APB reached a morning high of Sg$53.05 in Singapore after Wednesday's joint announcement.

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.

By agreeing to vote in favour of selling F&N's stake in APB, the Thais will gain a payout that will help finance their takeover of F&N, which is also involved in property, soft drinks and publishing, another analyst said.

"Price inflation may have been so rapid that it may be better to sell the (APB) stake and grab the non-beer business of F&N," said Xavier Jean, associate director of corporate ratings with credit ratings firm Standard and Poor's.

"It's not as profitable as beer and the growth potential is not as high, but it sits very nicely in terms of product diversification into non-alcoholic beverages and geographic diversification outside of Thailand."

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

A Heineken takeover of APB would give it an edge over other rivals in Southeast Asia as well as China.

Beer consumption in nine of the 10 Southeast Asian countries totalled 6.84 billion litres in 2011, up more than six percent from 2010, with Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines leading the market, data from research firm Euromonitor showed.

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© 2012 AFP

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