September 5, 2017 / 7:24 AM / 10 months ago

Vietnam moves one step closer to majority stake sale in brewer Sabeco

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam’s prime minister has approved a plan to sell a majority stake in brewer Sabeco SAB.HM, a government committee said in a document seen by Reuters on Tuesday, taking the state-controlled brewer one step closer to a long-awaited sale.

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

Vietnam has one of the world’s most attractive beer markets and the biggest in Southeast Asia, thanks to a young population that consumed nearly 4 billion liters in 2016.

Foreign brewers from Kirin (2503.T) to Heineken (HEIN.AS) have been looking at a possible investment in the maker of the Bia Saigon and 333 brews since it was earmarked for privatization. But long-stated plans for the government, which still owns about 90 percent, to sell a majority stake have met with repeated delays.

A meteoric rise in Sabeco’s share price due to high demand and a small float has complicated matters, making it difficult for industry buyers - including Heineken which already owns a 5 percent share - or other investors to step in.

The stock listed at 110,000 dong but is now trading at around 255,000 dong, a more than 130 percent increase.

The government wants to sell 53.59 percent of Sabeco, according to a document by Vietnam’s Steering Committee for Enterprise Innovation and Development dated Aug. 30. The document, however, did not mention a timeline for the sale or how much the government wants to raise.

Sabeco, the country’s second-biggest listed firm by market value, is a key plank of a broader privatization effort, which includes dairy firm Vinamilk VNM.HM, Vietnam Airlines HVN.HNO and rival brewer Habeco BHN.HM.

The Vietnamese government also plans to sell a further sliver of Vinamilk, around 3 percent, at 154,000 dong each, higher than the previous estimate, according to a government document seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The divestment out of Vinamilk, Vietnam’s top firm by value, is expected to bring in 7.443 trillion dong ($328 million) to the state, Vietnam’s Steering Committee for Enterprise Innovation and Development said in a statement dated Aug. 30.

The State Capital Investment Corp, the government’s representative in Vinamilk, said it estimated the stake sale would fetch 6.5-7 trillion dong.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Writing by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Vyas Mohan

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