Asian Tiger ThaiBev poised to pounce on F&N?

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Asian Tiger ThaiBev poised to pounce on F&N?
ThaiBev said today it is exploring the possibility of making an offer for Fraser & Neave (F&N) with an unnamed third party, in a move that could still disrupt Heineken’s multi-billion dollar move for Asia Pacific Breweries (APB).

Dutch giant Heineken has almost breasted the ticker tape in its bid to buy F&N’s 39.7% stake in brewer APB for S$53/share, with shareholders due to vote on its S$5.6bn ($4.54bn) offer on September 28.

Today, ThaiBev management issued a holding announcement referencing a Singapore Business Times ​article from yesterday, stating that it was seeking funds to mount an offer for Fraser & Neave (F&N).

ThaiBev, Kirin, Coke…

ThaiBev management said it was not seeking funding for a potential general offer for F&N, but added: “The board understands that a party acting in concert with the company is exploring the possibility of making an offer for F&N.”

On August 2 we reported that either Coca-Cola or Japan’s Kirin Holdings could be interested in F&N’s wider beverage arm, F&N Holding (2011 turnover: $S759m) following the sale of APB.

Today, we asked one Singapore-based analyst if ThaiBev’s latest move could upset Heineken’s APB bid, or whether the Thai firm and partner wanted F&N’s significant non-beer (soft drinks, dairy, property) interests instead, as suggested by a Reuters ​article today quoting sources close to ThaiBev.

SIAS Research lead analyst, Ng Kian Teck told BeverageDaily.com that ThaiBev’s true intentions in this respect were “anybody’s guess”​, but said it could just be targeting F&N’s non-alcoholic drinks arm.

ThaiBev now holds a 29% stake in F&N (including a block of APB shares) and stands to gain significantly (by at least around US $1bn) if it accepts Heineken’s APB offer at the end of this month.

ThaiBev beer hopes remain?

But could today’s announcement threaten Heineken’s bid? “Really it depends, on whether ThaiBev manages a buy out before F&N get official acceptance of Heineken’s offer on the APB side,”​ Teck said.

“Before that happens, if ThaiBev actually makes the move to buy out F&N, I think there is still this possibility for them to hope and chase [APB].”

In today’s holding announcement, ThaiBev did not disclose whether the third party came from within its chairman’s (Thai billionaire Chareon Sirivadhanabhakdi’s) wider TCC Group empire.

“Shareholders of the company and F&N should note that there is no certainty that an offer for F&N will materialize,”​ management wrote.

“Accordingly, shareholders of the company and F&N are advised to refrain from taking any action in relation to their shares in the company and F&N (as the case may be) which may be prejudicial to their interests,"​ it added.

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