Thai billionaire muscles in on Heineken Tiger beer deal

SINGAPORE/LONDON Tue Aug 7, 2012 12:56pm EDT

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

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

Credit: Reuters/Tim Chong

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SINGAPORE/LONDON (Reuters) - Heineken's (HEIN.AS) $6 billion bid for Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) APBB.SI faces a challenge from a group linked to Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, which could force the Dutch brewer to pay more to control the maker of Tiger beer.

The world's third biggest brewer has to decide whether to raise its bid or risk losing control of one of Asia's fastest growing brewers to the family of Thailand's second richest man.

Heineken agreed to buy stakes in the Asian brewer held by Singapore conglomerate Fraser and Neave (F&N) (FRNM.SI) last Friday, only for the Thai group to muscle in on the deal on Tuesday with a higher price for F&N's 7.3 percent direct stake.

Kindest Place Groups, a vehicle owned by Charoen's son-in-law, made a surprise offer of S$55 a share to buy F&N's direct stake in APB, S$5 a share more than Heineken agreed to pay in its deal announced last week. F&N controls around 40 percent of APB, mostly via a joint venture with Heineken.

The Thai companies, ThaiBev and Kindest Place, had already put Heineken on the back foot last month when they paid $3 billion to take stakes in F&N and APB. [ID:nL4E8II5YM]

Heineken, which controls 42 percent of APB, agreed to pay F&N S$50 a share for its APB stake which values it at S$5.1 billion ($4.1 billion). The Heineken deal is worth around $6 billion if a buyout of minority shareholders is included [ID:nL6E8J3OWA].

Heineken's APB bid is already at a rich multiple of 17.4 times (EBITDA) core profits, above the 15.4 times paid by Anheuser Busch InBev (ABI.BR) for Mexico's Modelo in June.

The Amsterdam-based brewer put a brave face on the situation saying its bid was better than the Thai offer.

"We are convinced that our bid is richer and offers more value to shareholders," said a Heineken spokesman.

Heineken shares fell to close 2.4 percent lower at 44.38 euros on worries about the prospect of a bidding war with the powerful Thai business family which could be pushing to control APB or just extract a higher price for its stake.

"With this latest turn of events, Heineken's current offer will fail. It will have to offer more than S$55 per share to outbid the Thai group, possibly S$60 per share," said Goh Han Peng, analyst at DMG & Partners Securities in Singapore.

If Kindest Place's offer succeeds, it will control more than 15 percent of APB, having already agreed to buy 7.9 percent of the beer maker from Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp (OCBC.SI) and its insurance unit Great Eastern Holdings (GELA.SI) last month at a lower price of S$45 a share.

Charoen can also try and block the full sale of APB to Heineken by voting against the deal through Thai Beverage PCL (TBEV.SI), which he controls. ThaiBev, the maker of Chang beer, is F&N's biggest shareholder with about 24 percent.

Analysts say Charoen recognizes the value of the APB business, which has a dominant position in most markets where it operates such as Vietnam and Singapore, and is expected to enjoy a rising stream of profits for many years to come.

Charoen and ThaiBev had not previously indicated whether they supported or opposed the sale of APB to Heineken.

Japanese beermaker Kirin (2503.T), F&N's second-largest shareholder with about 15 percent, has also not made its views known, although analysts believe it may be interested in F&N's soft drink interests rather than its brewing.

F&N said Kindest Place's offer will lapse at 5:00 pm Singapore time on August 16.

(Additional reporting by Eveline Danubrata in SINGAPORE and Gilbert Krejger in AMSTERDAM; Reporting by Saeed Azhar and David Jones; Editing by Kevin Lim, Neil Fullick and Jane Merriman)

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