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'Shrewd' ThaiBev billionaire still in hunt for Singapore prize Asia Pacific Beverages

By Ben Bouckley , 13-Sep-2012
Last updated the 13-Sep-2012 at 14:05 GMT

ThaiBev said today that its concert party aims to takeover Fraser & Neave (F&N) in a S$9bn deal, as rumors abound that the former’s billionaire chair still craves control of Asia Pacific Breweries (APB).

The Thai brewer is bidding to take over F&N in a S$8.88/share cash offer through related company TCC Assets, and said today that, together with its allied companies, had upped its holding in the Singapore-based firm to 30.36%.

Crossing the 30% threshold obliges ThaiBev/TTC to launch a mandatory offer for F&N’s outstanding shares, a move made today that risks upsetting Heineken’s move for the firm’s prized beer business, Tiger brandowner Asia Pacific Breweries (APB).

Heineken today noted ThaiBev’s announcement in a terse release stating: “The company will review the content carefully and has no further comment to make at this time.”

Chareon Sirivadhanabhakdi, the billionaire chairman of ThaiBev and TTC owner, is the force behind today’s offer, and must now woo outstanding F&N shareholders, including Kirin Holdings with its circa. 15% stake in the firm.

ThaiBev bares teeth for APB fight?

ThaiBev’s motives remain mysterious, with opinion divided on whether it will try to block Heineken’s offer for F&N’s stake in APB ahead of a September 28 EGM vote (the Dutch firm needs a simple majority), or now just wants control of F&N’s non-alcoholic beverage, dairy and property interests.

Justin Harper, head of research at Singapore-based IG Markets, said he thought Sirivadhanabhakdi (left) would hate Heineken to take control of APB.

Thus, he told BeverageDaily.com he believed the Thais still had designs on APB, and held higher ambitions that than simply extracting a higher price from Heineken or F&N’s other interests alone.

 “I still feel the Thais would prefer to get their hands on APB. And I totally agree that this is a win-win for Charoen [Sirivadhanabhakdi],” Harper said.

“He is in a very good position to capitalize financially whatever the outcome. A shrewd businessman who deserves his status as one of Southeast Asia’s richest men.”

Announcing its offer, ThaiBev/TCC said it held F&N in “high regard and believe the company’s long-established track record and success in its core businesses will be beneficial to them”

Fair value for F&N…

The partners explained that, since ThaiBev did not want to incur additional debt or spend money to acquire more F&N shares on its own behalf, TCC was undertaking today’s offer.

ThaiBev president and CEO, Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, said: “We believe the offer represents an opportunity for F&N shareholders to realize the value of their investment in cash and to make a complete exit from F&N.

“We hold F&N in high regard, and we believe its long-established track record and success in its core businesses will be beneficial to our group,” he added.

However, industry sources regard ThaiBev’s S$8.88/share valuation of F&N (a 4.3% premium over yesterday’s share price) as somewhat low, with $9-10 seen by many as the fair price.

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