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Thai Bev wins near $5 billion Sabeco auction in Vietnam's biggest privatization

Thai Bev wins near $5 billion Sabeco auction in Vietnam's biggest privatization

Monday, December 18, 2017, 18:13 GMT+7

HO CHI MINH CITY/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Thai Beverage, through a local unit, won the rights to buy a majority stake worth $4.84 billion in Vietnam’s top brewer Sabeco in an auction that marked the country’s biggest ever privatization process.

Vietnam’s young population and booming economy has made the state-owned maker of Bia Saigon an attractive asset for global players hoping to expand in Southeast Asia, but certain resistance, a high minimum bid price and a cap on foreign ownership have deterred buyers.

Thai Beverage (Thai Bev) emerged as the only buyer for the 54 percent stake in Sabeco that was up for grabs and its unit, Vietnam Beverage Co Ltd, was named a winner of the sale as global brewing groups stayed out of the auction on Monday.

Late on Sunday, Singapore-listed Thai Beverage had said in a statement that its indirect associated company had submitted the registration form to participate in the bidding.

Vietnam Beverage is owned by Vietnam F&B Alliance Investment Company, which is 49-percent owned by BeerCo Limited - an indirect but wholly-owned unit of Thai Beverage, official documents about the companies showed.

The government had set a minimum sale price of 320,000 dong or $14.1 per share for Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp (Sabeco), whose shares have jumped almost three fold to 309,200 dong since its listing a year ago.

“We see this as an example of a successful equitization process,” said Fiachra Mac Cana, head of research at Ho Chi Minh City Securities. “The sums involved are huge and this is also good news for government coffers at the end of the year.”

People drink beer in a restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam April 17, 2017. Picture taken April 17, 2017. Photo: Reuters
People drink beer in a restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam April 17, 2017. Picture taken April 17, 2017. Photo: Reuters

Thai Bev, controlled by tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, was keen to acquire Sabeco as part of a strategy to expand outside its home market, sources told Reuters.

Sabeco’s foreign ownership is capped at 49 percent. With 10 percent already in foreign hands, that left only 39 percent on the table for overseas buyers at Monday’s auction. Local bidders could bid for a majority stake of up to 54 percent. Heineken holds a 5 percent stake.

"Disconnect"

Reuters previously reported that the auction was drawing the interest of brewing groups such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Kirin Holdings, Asahi Group Holdings and San Miguel, but these brewers did not participate.

“There’s a disconnect between what the government wants to achieve and how international brewers view this auction,” said one person familiar with the matter.

“In a normal auction, bidders are fully aware of what stake they’ll end up owning and bid for it accordingly,” said the person, who was not authorized to speak to the media.

Unlike similar sales in developed markets, where investors are whittled down over several rounds and offers can be adjusted, Sabeco bidders need to submit a single offer for a specific number of shares in a sealed envelope in one round.

The government’s minimum price for the 54 percent stake on offer valued Sabeco at about 36 times core earnings, more than double the trading multiples of around 15 for some global peers, according to Reuters data.

Reuters

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