Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Thai tycoon set to win F&N in southeast Asia’s biggest M&A deal

Shares of Fraser and Neave Ltd. rose 1.8 per cent to a record Jan. 21, 2013 after Thailand’s third-richest man, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, raised his takeover offer for the property and drinks conglomerate and a rival group dropped out of the bidding.


Thailand's third-richest man is set to take control of Fraser and Neave Ltd. (F&N) in southeast Asia's biggest M&A deal after a group led by an Indonesian tycoon bowed out of a two-month bidding war for the $11.4-billion (U.S.) Singapore company.

The group led by Stephen Riady's Overseas Union Enterprise Ltd. threw in the towel after Thailand's TCC Assets Ltd., headed by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, raised its takeover offer for F&N to $9.55 Singapore ($7.71 Canadian) a share last week and bought additional stock in the open market to build its existing F&N holding to more than 40 per cent.

At stake is F&N's real estate portfolio worth more than $8-billion Singapore ($6.5-billion Canadian) and soft drinks, dairy and publishing businesses. F&N sold Tiger Beer to Dutch brewing giant Heineken NV in September.

Story continues below advertisement

"OUE is a disciplined investor and at all times acts in the best interests of its shareholders," Overseas Union said in a statement after the market close on Monday, adding that it will explore and pursue other acquisitions.

Overseas Union said it decided not to revise its offer of $9.08 (Singapore) a share as it would have had to raise the price significantly to gain control of more than 50 per cent of the 130-year-old company.

Such a move was no longer attractive after recent measures taken by the Singapore government to cool the city-state's property market, Overseas Union said.

The Singapore government this month imposed a higher stamp duty on foreign buyers, a new levy on sellers of industrial property and a limit on loan sizes. As a percentage of home sales, buying by foreigners in Singapore declined to just over 6 per cent last year from 18 per cent in 2011, Citigroup said in a report.

F&N also has a food and beverage business which its second-biggest shareholder, Kirin Holdings Co. Ltd., had offered to buy for $2.7-billion (Singapore) had the Overseas Union group's bid been successful. The Japanese brewer owns a stake of around 14.8 per cent in F&N.

Overseas Union's dropout was not expected by all in the market as F&N shares rose 1.7 per cent to close at $9.74 in Singapore trading on Monday, indicating some investors were betting on a counter-bid.

Mr. Charoen gained the upper hand when he amassed a stake of more than 40 per cent in F&N by purchasing an additional 90.8 million shares, or a 6.3-per-cent stake in F&N, at $9.55 each on Friday and another 2.2 million shares on Saturday.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Charoen initially bought a 22-per-cent stake from Singapore's OCBC Group in July at $8.88 a share. He has spent about $5.2-billion at an average price of $8.98 per share to build up his stake in F&N.

F&N's independent financial adviser JPMorgan Chase & Co. has said its sum-of-the-parts valuation is $8.58 to $11.56 per share.

"F&N independent directors, as advised by its IFA (independent financial adviser), will evaluate TCC Assets' revised offer and make their recommendations to shareholders in due course," an F&N spokeswoman said when asked to comment on what the company plans to do after Overseas Union decided not to raise its offer.

If Mr. Charoen wins control of F&N, analysts say he is likely to use F&N's distribution network in Singapore and Malaysia to sell his other products and to market F&N brands in Thailand, where he already has an edge.

"They get a well-established conglomerate with a property portfolio, and for the food and beverage segment, there are a lot of ways Thai Beverage and F&N can co-operate together and derive synergy," said Goh Han Peng, an analyst at DMG & Partners Securities in Singapore.

If Mr. Charoen wins, F&N will have to pay a break fee of up to $50-million to the Overseas Union group.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Charoen, whom Forbes says is worth $6.2-billion (U.S.), had extended the deadline of his previous offer seven times and the Overseas Union group had done so twice. The multiple extensions have tested the patience of F&N shareholders.

Singapore's securities watchdog, Securities Industry Council, intervened last week by calling an unprecedented auction on Monday to end the protracted takeover battle between the two tycoons.

The auction was triggered because neither bidder declared a final offer by a deadline on Sunday set by the council.

Mr. Charoen's advisors are Morgan Stanley, DBS Bank Ltd. and United Overseas Bank Ltd. The Overseas Union group was advised by Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and CIMB.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨