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Thai tycoon expected to make $9b offer

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, named by Forbes as Thailand's third-richest man, controls ThaiBev, which holds 29 per cent of F&N. (PHOTO: THE NATION)

Publication Date : 13-09-2012


Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi looks poised to launch Singapore's largest-ever takeover by tabling a S$9 billion (US$7.32 billion) bid for Fraser and Neave (F&N) either today or tomorrow.

Charoen's Thai Beverage (ThaiBev) has already spent S$3.6 billion to get 29 per cent of F&N so the new outlay would bring the spending to S$12.6 billion - beating the S$10 billion that United Overseas Bank paid for Overseas Union Bank in 2001.

Sources told The Straits Times that the billionaire has secured funding, including from Singapore banks, for the F&N bid.

Charoen had not found an an external partner as of last night and so is relying on his own business entities to launch the takeover.

The tycoon, named by Forbes as Thailand's third-richest man with a net worth of US$6.2 billion, controls the unlisted Thai conglomerate TCC Group, which has interests ranging from property to consumer goods.

Charoen also controls ThaiBev, which makes Chang Beer, through the group.

"He (Mr Charoen) is trying to get a partner but, if that fails, he will launch a general offer on his own," said a source.

Singapore takeover rules state that a general offer price must be at least S$8.88 per share - the highest price ThaiBev has paid for F&N stock in the past six months.

That means Charoen's vehicle will need to pay about S$9 billion at least for the 71 per cent of F&N he does not own.

Charoen wants to keep the brewery assets of F&N, The Straits Times understands.

A takeover of F&N could then stymie a S$5.4 billion bid by Heineken to buy F&N's stake in Asia Pacific Breweries. F&N shareholders vote on that deal on September 28.

With ThaiBev holding a 29 per cent stake in F&N, Charoen would already have had a large say at the vote. His influence will increase if he launches an offer and sweeps up more shares before the meeting.

Charoen is thought to be open to selling other parts of F&N - a move that could see the venerable Singapore conglomerate's different businesses such as property, drinks and publishing being split up into separate entities.

"If it's too big to chew, he will dispose of some (F&N) assets later," said the source.

Charoen is in Singapore for "business meetings". The Straits Times understands that he arrived on Tuesday, spent yesterday in discussions and could leave as early as today.

The billionaire is staying at the InterContinental Singapore at Middle Road, which is owned by TCC Land, the property arm of his conglomerate, TCC Group.

Vichate Tantiwanich, senior vice-president at ThaiBev, said Charoen is in Singapore for "normal business meetings", with many items on the agenda, including the situation at F&N.

Vichate declined to specify if the talks were about a possible takeover or the normal operations of F&N. He also declined to comment on whether a bid for F&N was imminent.

ThaiBev chief executive Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, who is Charoen's son, is also here.

ThaiBev announced early on Tuesday morning that a party "acting in concert" with it is exploring a possible offer for F&N.

ThaiBev did not name the party but TCC Group or TCC Land were tipped as possibilities.


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