Kirin eyes selling Fraser and Neave stake: sources

SINGAPORE/TOKYO Thu Sep 27, 2012 9:28pm EDT

SINGAPORE/TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Kirin Holdings Co (2503.T) is considering selling its nearly 15 percent stake in Singapore's Fraser and Neave Ltd (F&N) (FRNM.SI), sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

The Japanese brewer is exploring several options, including a sale to Thai Beverage PCL (TBEV.SI) or selling the stake to another potential buyer at a higher price, one of the sources told Reuters.

The source, who spoke on the condition of not being identified, added that the Japanese group has been approached by the Thai company about the stake.

ThaiBev, headed by Thailand's third-richest man, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, launched a $7.2 billion tender offer last week to buy all of F&N's shares.

Kirin could pocket about 120 billion yen ($1.54 billion) if it sold its entire stake to ThaiBev, The Nikkei business daily reported on Friday. However, one of the sources added that no decision has been made.

A Kirin official said the company does not comment on individual deals.

ThaiBev has been raising its stake in the Singapore conglomerate as it battles with Dutch brewer Heineken NV (HEIN.AS) over the potential sale of F&N's stake in Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) APBB.SI.

When Charoen launched the buyout bid, some analysts said it might derail Heineken's $6.3 billion bid for the stakes of F&N and of other shareholders in Tiger Beer-maker APB. But ThaiBev and TCC Assets Ltd, collectively F&N's largest shareholder with a 30.7 percent stake, said last week that they would support the deal.

F&N's shareholders will meet later on Friday to vote on the proposed APB stake sale to Heineken, as well as the capital reduction.

Kirin shares rose 0.8 percent to 1,047 yen in early Tokyo trade, versus a 0.1 percent tick up in the Nikkei 225 average .N225. ($1 = 77.6950 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Saeed Azhar in Singapore, Ritsuko Shimizu and James Topham in Tokyo; Chris Jonathan Peters in Bangalore; Editing by Ken Wills)

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