Vietnam PM urges Carlsberg to raise Habeco stake in privatisation push

A logo of Carlsberg beer is seen on the entrance of a pub in Brussels, Belgium March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Vietnam’s prime minister has urged Danish brewer Carlsberg to raise its 17 percent in beermaker Habeco, the government said on Thursday as it seeks to step up the privatization of state assets.

The Southeast Asian nation is one of the biggest beer markets in the region, with a young population and economic growth expected to drive future demand for brews.

“Vietnam is speeding up its privatization drive … and this is a chance for foreign investors, including Carlsberg,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told Carlsberg chief executive Cees’t Hart in Hanoi, the government said in a statement.

The two met on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum meeting in Vietnam’s capital.

Carlsberg currently holds 17.34 percent of Habeco and has expressed an interest in raising the stake, but discussions have dragged for years.

“The Prime Minister suggested both sides should soon discuss and resolve any remaining issues for the stake sale,” the statement said.

It quoted Hart as saying Carlsberg wanted to invest significantly in Habeco, and has been in talks with Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade to facilitate the investment.

The government has said it wants to fully divest its 81 percent stake in Habeco, Vietnam’s number three brewer and known for its Hanoi and Truc Bach brands.

The government sold a 53.59 percent stake in the country’s largest brewer, Sabeco SAB.HM, to ThaiBev for $4.84 billion last year.

Sabeco, known for its Bia Saigon and 333 brews, holds roughly 40 percent of Vietnam’s beer market. Habeco has a 16 percent share of the market.

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Reuters