F&N hires Goldman to advise on Heineken's bid for beer maker

SINGAPORE Mon Jul 23, 2012 2:52am EDT

Bottles of Tiger and Heineken beers are pictured on the shelf of a grocery store in Singapore in this July 20, 2012 file photograph. REUTERS/Tim Chong/Files

Bottles of Tiger and Heineken beers are pictured on the shelf of a grocery store in Singapore in this July 20, 2012 file photograph.

Credit: Reuters/Tim Chong/Files

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore conglomerate Fraser and Neave (F&N) (FRNM.SI) has hired Goldman Sachs to weigh Heineken NV's (HEIN.AS) $6 billion bid for Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) APBB.SI as the takeover battle for the maker of Tiger Beer intensifies, sources said.

The tussle for Southeast Asia's biggest beer maker comes amid a wave of industry consolidation and expanding beer sales in emerging markets, although APB's ownership structure makes this among the most complicated assets to buy.

Heineken's proposal on Friday completed a frenetic week for F&N, whose joint venture with the Dutch brewer has a 65 percent controlling stake in APB.

Heineken offered to buy out F&N's interest in APB after Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC.SI) and an affiliated group said they had received a $3 billion bid for their stakes in F&N and APB from companies linked to Thai billionaire and founder of Thai Beverage PCL (TBEV.SI), Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.

APB, whose shares surged as much as 18 percent to a record on Monday, was still trading below Heineken's offer of S$50 a share because of uncertainty over whether the deal would go through.

F&N, whose shares rose about 5 percent, said its board was considering Heineken's offer.

F&N was not immediately available to comment on Goldman's (GS.N) role as its financial advisor, while a spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment.

"There's still some uncertainty as it is not clear how F&N will react to the offer," said Goh Han Peng, an analyst at DMG & Partners Securities.

"If the F&N shareholders do not accept the offer from Heineken, they may come up with a hostile offer for APB, meaning they will go to the minority shareholders. The second way is to go directly to F&N and mount a takeover because shares in APB are very illiquid."

Nomura raised its target price on F&N to S$9.16 from S$8.08 and maintained its neutral rating. Nomura said if F&N accepts Heineken's offer, it will reap cash proceeds of about S$5.2 billion but lose an important contributor to its earnings.

Without APB, F&N will have a smaller food and beverage business comprising its ASEAN soft drinks and dairies businesses, Nomura said. But the Singapore conglomerate, which also owns a property division, will have additional cash of S$5.2 billion, or S$3.66 per share, part of which could be paid as a special dividend, according to Nomura.

Heineken's rivals, Thai Beverage PCL (TBEV.SI) and Japan's Kirin Holdings Co Ltd (2503.T), are unlikely to readily let the world's third-largest brewer take control of a beer empire stretching from Mongolia to New Zealand, analysts said.

Kirin, which holds 14.7 percent of F&N, is also weighing its options, sources familiar with the matter said, declining to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

"Without APB, Kirin and ThaiBev may push for a demerger of the property business so the businesses can be valued separately and control for the F&B and property assets settled accordingly," Nomura said. ($1 = 1.2569 Singapore dollars)

(Editing by Ryan Woo)

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