INTERVIEW-Thailand's Singha Estate plans deals to help brewer parent diversify

BANGKOK, Oct 12 (Reuters) - With a $1.5 billion warchest, the real estate arm of Thailand’s Boon Rawd Brewery is looking to strike deals to help its parent diversify, with its chairman highlighting Europe as an “interesting” market.

Singha Estate Pcl has made a string of acquisitions in Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the Maldives since its initial public offering in 2014.

Chairman Chutinant Bhirombhakdi told Reuters in an interview on Thursday there was more to come.

“We are somewhat a late-comer to property development,” he said, adding Boon Rawd and its partners had a good land bank and so the time was right to diversify beyond beverages.

Boon Rawd is best known for making Thailand’s Singha beer, and is owned by the Bhirombhakdi family, which is ranked the 9th richest in the country.

Singha Estate is focused on Thailand’s real estate sector, where it is an upscale developer, with 58 percent of revenue in its second quarter coming from residential properties.

However, it wants to balance its portfolio with commercial property and office space, said Chutinant, who is also executive vice president at Boon Rawd.

There is still demand from foreign companies setting up shop in Bangkok where scattered business districts are soon to be linked by an extended mass transport system, he added.

Chutinant said assets and properties in Europe on the whole were “available at a discount, and interesting,” but did not give specifics.

He was also confident about the tourist industry because there was “no substitute.”

“People will still have to go see the Colosseum in Rome, Stonehenge in England, and islands in the Maldives,” he said.

Singha Estate has over 3,000 hotel rooms in the United Kingdom, while the first phase of its development across three islands in the Maldives is due to be ready for visitors in the third quarter of next year.

The company is looking to increase its number of hotel rooms, Chutinant said, adding he would like to see 30 percent of Singha Estate’s revenue come from overseas versus less than 20 percent now, though he noted this was not an official target.

On other areas of diversification for Boon Rawd, Chutinant said the business would expand its food and packaging units.

It also plans to expand into neighboring Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar in “a big way,” he added, without giving details. Boon Rawd bought two units of Vietnamese consumer goods giant Masan in 2015 for $1.1 billion.

Alcoholic beverages account for 75 percent of Boon Rawd’s business. Boon Rawd President Santi Bhirombhakdi, who is Chutinant’s cousin, has said he wants to see 30-35 percent of revenue coming from other businesses. (Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Mark Potter)