- By Region
Shares of Fraser and Neave, one of south-east Asia’s largest food and brewery groups, jumped almost 6 per cent on Tuesday after two of its large shareholders said they had received a bid for their combined $2bn stake in the Singapore-listed company and a related brewery.
Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation, Singapore’s second-biggest bank by assets, and its Great Eastern Holdings insurance unit said they had been approached with an offer to buy their combined 18.2 per cent stake in F&N as well as their 7.9 per cent holding in Asia Pacific Breweries.
Analysts said the move could trigger a battle for control of F&N, centred on its flagship brewing business Asia Pacific Breweries, maker of Tiger Beer.
Neither OCBC nor Great Eastern named the bidder.
The move prompted Heineken, which controls Asia Pacific Breweries through a 50-50 joint venture with F&N, to distance itself from speculation that it was involved.
“We are actively considering our options given our legitimate concerns in relation to this sudden development. We are seeking all necessary assurances and will take any appropriate action in order to safeguard our interests,” the Dutch brewer said.
Kirin has 15 per cent of F&N through a stake bought in 2010, making it the second largest shareholder after a combined OCBC and Great Eastern.
That has proved a source of frustration at Heineken, which said last year it was “uncomfortable” with the change of ownership at F&N, noting that it competed with Kirin in a number of markets.
A person close to F&N said there was “no reason” for the company to change its conglomerate structure at this time.
Analysts said the attraction of F&N would be its extensive drinks distribution network in Asia. The group operates a food, soft drinks and beer business in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Vietnam and Myanmar. It derives 59 per cent of its revenues from food and beverage, 34 per cent from property and the rest from publishing and printing.
In its first half ended in March, Asia Pacific Breweries’ profit before exceptional items was up 34 per cent at S$246m (US$195m). F&N said its beer-related earnings for the whole of 2011 jumped 23 per cent to $372m.
F&N shares closed up 2.5 per cent on Tuesday.