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ThaiBev ready to reform Saigon Beer

Thai company wants half of its business to come from overseas by 2020

Sampling Saigon beer at a restaurant in Hanoi. Thai Beverage has confirmed that it now controls Sabeco's management board.    © AP

BANGKOK -- Thai Beverage, known for its ubiquitous Chang beer, confirmed on Oct. 3 that it has gained control of the management board of Vietnam's Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Corp. (Sabeco).

ThaiBev will now have a freer hand in expanding its business overseas and it will also now be able to reform Sabeco, brewer of Saigon beer, to make it a more efficient company.

"Out of seven management board positions, currently we have three members and one independent member on our side," said Bennett Neo, general director of Sabeco, who was appointed on Aug. 1 by ThaiBev. He said that the position of chairman was also secured by ThaiBev's side.

ThaiBev acquired 53.6% in Sabeco in December 2017. However, it failed to gain control of the management board. "We are all ready to rock 'n' roll," Neo said. His team will work on reforms that will allow it to make investment decisions faster and to lower costs to boost productivity of the previously state-owned company.

Sabeco's reforms would be significant for ThaiBev, as it hopes to expand its overseas business to 50% of its whole yearly revenue by 2020. The number stands at around 40% now. Thapana Sirivadhanabhakdi, president and CEO of ThaiBev, said the high growth rate of the Greater Mekong countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam -- would help its business.

But Neo said he would not rush any changes. "It will be a rock song, but a slow one," he said. Changing the corporate culture of Sabeco "cannot be done overnight," he added.

 Sabeco General Director Bennett Neo is set to streamline the company's business. (Photo by Masayuki Yuda)

Through Sabeco's acquisition, ThaiBev's share in the beer market in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations rose to 24%, the largest among its rivals. Yearly beer demand in ASEAN is around 11 billion liters.

Sabeco's revenue for the six months ended June was around 17 trillion Vietnamese dong ($728 million), up 8% from the previous year. Its net profit was down 4% at 2.3 trillion dong.

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