Overseas Union-led group sets Jan 3 deadline for $10.8 bln F&N bid

SINGAPORE Thu Dec 6, 2012 5:13am EST

SINGAPORE Dec 6 (Reuters) - A group led by Singapore property firm Overseas Union Enterprise Ltd set a Jan. 3 deadline for its S$13.1 billion ($10.8 billion) offer to buy Fraser and Neave Ltd, as it waits out a Dec. 11 deadline for a rival bid from a Thai billionaire.

The Overseas Union-led consortium last month offered S$9.08 per share for F&N, 2.25 percent higher than an S$8.88-a-share bid from companies linked to Thailand's third-richest man, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.

The market is expecting a bidding war to unfold between the two, with F&N's shares holding roughly between S$9.30 and S$9.50 in the three weeks since the Overseas Union group announced its bid - well above both bid prices.

The stock closed at S$9.39 on Thursday, down 0.5 percent on the day.

Analysts say the Thai group is likely to raise its offer for F&N, since it is keen to expand beyond its domestic market. F&N has a property portfolio worth more than S$8 billion, as well as a business in soft drinks that are popular in Singapore and Malaysia.

"Walking away is unlikely because the Thais recognised that F&N gives them the regional platform for cross-selling opportunities," said Goh Han Peng, an analyst at DMG & Partners Securities.

"They acquired most of the F&N stake at S$8.88 each, and they might not want to gain just a few percent and sacrifice a long-term opportunity," he added.

The Thai group is F&N's biggest shareholder with a 33.6 percent stake, the majority of which was bought from Singapore's OCBC group for S$8.88 a share in July. It had also received acceptances from F&N shareholders representing a further 1.4 percent stake.

The Overseas Union group's bid is conditionally backed by Japan's Kirin Holdings Co Ltd, F&N's second-biggest shareholder with a stake of around 14.8 percent.

Charoen, through TCC Assets and Thai Beverage PCL, made a $7.2 billion bid in September to buy shares of F&N that he did not own, valuing the Singapore property and drinks company around S$12.8 billion.

The Thais have extended their offer three times from the original Oct. 29 deadline. ($1 = 1.2175 Singapore dollars) (Reporting by Eveline Danubrata; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

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