ThaiBev CEO says beer business IPO still on table

Photo: Reuters

Thai Beverage still considers the listing of its beer subsidiary as the most viable way of raising funds for further expansion, Southeast Asia’s major brewer said on Thursday, as it sought to make clear its plans while the pandemic roils on.

“The IPO will certainly happen,” said President and CEO Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi at Thai Beverage’s annual news conference, without specifying when the process will begin. “Based on compliance regulation, we have to seek approval from Singapore Exchange once again. Once we receive the approval, we will proceed,” he said.

Thai Beverage is the brewer of Chang beer and a core member of billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s TCC Group. Thapana is the third of Charoen’s five children.

The company had voiced its intention to spin-off and list its beer business in 2019. Through internal restructuring, BeerCo was created in 2020 to streamline and consolidate ThaiBev’s brewery business and operations.

An initial attempt was made in February. It announced a plan to sell a 20% stake in BeerCo through an initial public offering. The postponement of the listing came only after two and a half months.

The company blamed market uncertainty, “aggravated by the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand and other countries, which are not conducive for the proposed spin-off listing,” according to a ThaiBev statement in April.

Despite such a volatile market, ThaiBev revenue in the nine months to end-June rose 1.2% from the same period a year ago to 80.2 billion baht ($2.37 billion). Its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization jumped by 20.4% to 10.6 billion baht.

In the news conference, the company said it had quickly adjusted its sales channels to improve performance during the pandemic. It focused on selling in retail stores, instead of bars and restaurants, which were subject to closures due to the spread of COVID-19. It also worked on online sales in countries that permitted the selling of alcoholic beverages on the internet, unlike Thailand.

Despite its efforts, the capital markets are still shaky. “BeerCo’s IPO depends on timing and readiness of investors,” said Thapana. “It is because I have to protect ThaiBev shareholders’ value in their best interest.” Apart from the negative impact of the pandemic on some sectors, investors are also now nervous about a financial crunch rippling out from the China Evergrande crisis.

ThaiBev has been listed and traded on the Singapore Exchange since 2006. The parent company originally wanted a dual listing on home soil but canceled the proposal after receiving a thumbs-down from domestic activists. The consumption of alcoholic drinks is considered a bad habit in Buddhism, Thailand’s main religion. BeerCo also faces the same resistance domestically.

TCC Group became one of Thailand’s largest conglomerates through acquisitions. It bought Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage, or Sabeco, in 2018 for $4.8 billion. It is thought that proceeds from the BeerCo IPO could also be used to fund acquisitions.

Meanwhile, ThaiBev said its brewing factory in Myanmar successfully ramped up production despite political instability after the military seized power in February and amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The factory has recently added a new canning line, according to Thapana.

The Myanmar factory operates under Fraser and Neave, TCC Group’s food and beverage arm it acquired in 2013, instead of BeerCo. The move was aimed at avoiding any sanctions that could be slapped on BeerCo for operating in a junta-ruled country when it is seeking to list.

This article was first published in Nikkei Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.