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ThaiBev unit sole bidder for over 25% of Vietnam brewer Sabeco

Vietnam seen as tempting market due to young population, beer-drinking culture

Bottles of beer move along a production line at a factory of Saigon Beer Corporation (Sabeco) in Hanoi   © Reuters

HO CHI MINH CITY -- Vietnam Beverage, a local unit of Thai Beverage, was the only company to register a bid for over 25% of Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp., or Sabeco, as of 6 pm local time Monday, Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade said. 

Vietnam Beverage is wholly owned by F&B Alliance Vietnam, a local unit of the F&B food and beverage conglomerate based in Singapore. A unit of Thai Beverage bought a 49% stake in F&B Alliance Vietnam in November -- an apparent move to secure a vehicle to bid for Sabeco.

In an effort to find growth beyond Thailand, Thai Beverage has shown interest in Vietnamese state-owned companies in the food and beverage sector. Sabeco, along with Vietnam Dairy Products, or Vinamilk, were among the entities that ThaiBev was keen to invest in. Vietnam is seen as a promising market due to its fast-growing economy, youthful population and beer-drinking culture.

ThaiBev declined to comment on its participation in the bidding process for Sabeco.

According to local rules, the Ministry of Industry and Trade will disclose the name of bidders keen to take a stake of 25% or greater in Sabeco in advance of the final auction slated for Dec. 18.

On Dec. 10, Reuters reported that global brewers, including ThaiBev, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Kirin Holdings, had joined in the bidding for Sabeco.

Vietnam will hold a public auction of up to 343 million shares, or 53.59% of Sabeco, a large state-owned brewer, through the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange. The ministry owns 89.6% of the shares, and aims to raise more than $4 billion through the biggest privatization of a state-owned company.

Foreign ownership in Sabeco is capped at 49%. But only a 38.59% stake will be available to foreign investors in this round of divestment. Heineken and other foreign investors already hold around 9%.

Sabeco's share price has almost tripled since its listing on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange in December 2016. Analysts say the small float inflated its market value.

Sabeco shares closed at 293,000 dong on Monday, around 8% lower than the bid price of 320,000 dong. In late morning trading Monday, the shares were trading around 313,500.


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