ThaiBev emerges as sole bidder for $2b stake in Vietnam’s Sabeco

Men drink Sabeco's Saigon beer on a roadside restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam November 29, 217. REUTERS/Kham

A unit of Thai Beverage Pcl is the only investor to register to buy at least a 25 percent stake in Vietnam’s largest beer company, according to the Vietnam trade ministry’s website, in a sale that would be valued at more than $2 billion.

ThaiBev was one of about a half-dozen foreign companies, including Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., that expressed an interest in bidding for  Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp., or Sabeco as the company is known. The closing date for registration for a stake of more than 25 percent in a Dec. 18 auction was on Monday, though other companies can still bid for less than that amount.

ThaiBev, controlled by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, declined to immediately comment. Trading in the company was halted in Singapore on Tuesday pending an announcement. Sabeco shares surged 7 percent, the daily limit, at the opening of trading Tuesday in Vietnam. Hanoi Beer Alcohol & Beverage JSC, which is expected to have a share sale early next year, also jumped 7 percent.

Vietnam is seeking to raise at least $4.8 billion in the country’s biggest stake sale, and global brewers have been drawn to the heady growth prospects of the country’s beer market. An expanding Vietnamese middle class and youthful population helped drive a 300 percent surge in beer demand since 2002, according to Euromonitor. But many companies have been put off by Sabeco’s valuation, as the stock has soared 48 percent this year.

The sale of a 25 percent stake in Sabeco would be worth $2.3 billion based on the government’s initial price guidance of 320,000 dong ($14.09) a share, about 9 percent above Monday’s closing price.

The government is offering 53.6 percent of the brewer, though foreign investors are limited to a 38.59 percent stake. Combined with the 10.4 percent already held by investors from overseas, that would hit the foreign ownership cap imposed by Vietnam on some public companies.

Hui Choon Kit, chief financial officer of Fraser and Neave Ltd., a vehicle for Thai Beverage’s international expansion, said last month that Sabeco was too expensive at its current share price.

Fraser and Neave has had experience working in Vietnam’s beer market from its earlier part ownership of Asia Pacific Breweries, which owns Tiger Beer. It sold the stake to Heineken five years ago. Last month, Thai Beverage purchased a 49 percent stake in a Vietnamese food and beverage alliance.

The government is divesting stakes in Sabeco and Hanoi Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp. as a growing budget deficit forces the leadership to accelerate a plan to reduce holdings in state-owned firms.

Bloomberg

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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).

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  • 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.