Sabeco gets strong response at Singapore investors' roadshow as Vietnam kicks off sale

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Vietnam's biggest brewer Sabeco SAB.HM has received a strong response from potential suitors at an investors' roadshow in Singapore, its chairman said, as the government moves closer to finalizing a stake sale in the $9 billion maker of Bia Saigon and 333 brews.

FILE PHOTO: Cans of beer move along a production line at a factory of Saigon Beer Corporation (Sabeco) in Hanoi, Vietnam June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kham/File Photo

Vo Thanh Ha said the government is due shortly to publish details of a divestment plan for its nearly 90 percent stake in Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp, as the brewer is formally called, as part of a lengthy fund-raising exercise.

The sale has attracted interest from global brewers seeking access to what is already the second-most profitable market for Dutch brewer Heineken NV HEIN.AS, which holds 5 percent of Sabeco.

Vietnam’s per-capita beer consumption is forecast to grow to 47.8 liters by 2021 from an estimated 40.6 liters this year, making the Southeast Asian country the biggest beer consumer on a per capita basis among Asian countries, data from research firm Euromonitor International showed.

The Sabeco sale could also provide a template for more planned privatizations including that of peer Habeco BHN.HM, in which Danish brewer Carlsberg A/S CARLb.CO owns 17.3 percent.

“We met a number of very high-profile investors – strategic investors and industry players,” Ha said in an interview in Singapore.

“We’ve received very good feedback from investors that they consider Sabeco as an extremely good company with high potential to grow,” Ha said, in comments translated from Vietnamese by an adviser for the roadshow.

Representatives from Japanese pair Kirin Holdings Co Ltd 2503.T and Asahi Group Holdings Ltd 2502.T also took part in the roadshow, said Ha.

On Monday, a Kirin spokesman said the Japanese brewer is considering buying a stake in Sabeco, and will determine the size once sale details are finalised.

Asahi declined comment. In September, the brewer told Reuters it had been studying Sabeco.

Ha said representatives of Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade were also present at Sabeco’s roadshow.

“The divestment is on schedule. The government will be publishing the plan to divest very soon,” said Ha, speaking in a private bus en route to Changi Airport.

The roadshow moves to London and Ho Chi Minh City this week.

The government said this month it aims to complete a stake sale in December, though it has yet to disclose a size or price. Complicating the process is a near-trebling of Sabeco's share price over the past year to 318,800 dong ($14), compared with a 40 percent rise in the benchmark index .VNI to 10-year highs.

“The price is determined by the market,” said Ha, when asked to comment on the surge.

Some investors said a small free float has inflated Sabeco’s market value.

Sabeco dominates Vietnam’s beer market where its main rivals are Heineken and Habeco, formally Hanoi Beer Alcohol & Beverage JSC. It expects the introduction of premium products to help it maintain a market share of 40 to 42 percent over the next two or three years, Ha said.

($1 = 22,715.0000 dong)

Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Additional reporting by Junko Fujita in TOKYO and Mai Nguyen in HANOI; Editing by Christopher Cushing