Thailand’s richest man adds $2.5b to his fortune on beer, spirits

Billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi. Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

Thailand’s richest man added $2.5 billion to his fortune this year even before snapping up Starbucks Corp.’s local operations to cement his group’s position as a consumer-sector titan.

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s net worth has risen to $13.4 billion mostly due to a 34% gain in Singapore-listed Thai Beverage Pcl shares, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. A company affiliate is part of a venture buying out Starbucks’ Thai operations, a transaction that could value the business at more than $500 million.

Buying Starbucks’ Thailand operations extends Charoen’s strategy of taking his empire beyond beer and whiskey in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy. He’s also expanded into the alcoholic beverage sectors in Myanmar and Vietnam.

“Charoen’s thirst for new deals will stretch beyond beverages, allowing his group to fortify its position as a consumer-sector heavyweight,” said Thomas Jastrzab, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “An increasingly extensive drink portfolio should secure strong positions in both on-premise and off-premise channels, bolstering long-term profitability.”

Charoen’s wealth peaked at $17.7 billion in January 2018 before the shares of his flagship beverage company slumped as waning Thai beer and spirit sales dragged first-half earnings lower. Thailand has banned advertising and raised taxes on alcoholic beverages to curb consumption.

In 2017, Charoen’s Thai Beverage bought more than 240 KFC restaurants in Thailand for about 11.3 billion Thai baht ($355 million). It also acquired a 75% stake in the maker of Myanmar’s leading whiskey brand for about $742 million, its first major investment into the country.

Charoen plans an initial public offering of a Thailand-based property business this year that could raise at least $1.5 billion, according to a Bloomberg report in October. He also controls Berli Jucker Pcl, a century-old trader and consumer goods manufacturer, Golden Land Property Development Pcl, Fraser & Neave Ltd. and Frasers Centrepoint Ltd.

Charoen was unavailable for comment after calls to his office in Bangkok.