VIETNAM – Thai Beverage Plc is doubling down on Vietnam after it partnered with a local company to buy a $4.8 billion stake in the country’s largest brewer, a key step for the company controlled by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi as it seeks to dominate Southeast Asia’s beverage market.
Vietnam Beverage, the local unit which ThaiBev holds a stake in, said it won the bidding for an almost 54 percent holding in Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp.
ThaiBev emerged as the only major investor to bid in what had been billed as a hotly contested auction of Vietnam’s biggest asset sale.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade sold the Sabeco stake for 320,000 dong ($14.09) a share, according to a statement to the stock exchange.
That’s a 3.5 percent premium over Monday’s closing price.
Shares of Sabeco, as the brewery is known, jumped as much as 2.8 percent to 317,900 dong in Vietnam Monday, before closing little changed.
Vietnam investors were buoyed by the news, with the benchmark VN Index jumping 2.5 percent, the most since July 2016. Trading in Thai Beverage shares was halted in Singapore.
While global companies including Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. had shown interest earlier, many were put off by Sabeco’s valuation as the stock surged 56 percent this year.
ThaiBev is paying a premium to get into Vietnam’s $6.5 billion beer market as it targets to expand across Southeast Asia to diversify revenue streams.
“While the deal could be deemed pricey, it does give ThaiBev access to a strong player” in Vietnam’s growing beer market, CIMB-GK Securities analysts Cezzane See and Siew Khee Lim wrote in a note before the winning bid was announced.
“The acquisition is in line with the group’s Vision 2020 of being a regional beverage play.”
To solidify its position in Southeast Asia, ThaiBev is seeking to increase the revenue contribution from outside Thailand to more than 50 percent by the end of 2020.
The company gets 97 percent of its sales from its domestic operations, according to data compiled by Bloomberg as of Sept. 30.
ThaiBev, through its Fraser and Neave Ltd. investment unit, also holds a 16 percent stake in Vietnam Dairy Products JSC, the country’s biggest dairy, and has registered to increase its holding.
Another Charoen-owned company, TCC Holding Co., struck a deal to acquire Metro Cash & Carry Vietnam for about $700 million in 2015.
The Sabeco deal allows ThaiBev to boost the chain of its investments in Vietnam, said Pham Phu Ngoc Trai, chairman of Ho Chi Minh City-based Global Integration Business Consultants.
“Thai Beverage has more advantages than other competitors in this sense,” he said.
ThaiBev said it has confidence in the “growth potential of the Vietnam market and has genuine interest in exploring investment opportunities in the country,” according to a statement last week.
An expanding middle class and youthful population helped drive a 300 percent surge in beer demand since 2002, according to Euromonitor International.
Vietnam raised a total of 110 trillion dong ($4.8 billion) from the sale, with the only other bidder an individual who purchased a less than 1 percent stake in the brewer.
Vietnam Premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc will decide whether to sell more shares of Sabeco, Truong Thanh Hoai, head of industry at the trade ministry, said at the beer company’s auction in Ho Chi Minh City.
ThaiBev’s unit is registered as a local company, making it eligible to take a controlling stake as foreign ownership limits do not apply to it.
Last month, Thai Beverage purchased a 49 percent stake in a Vietnamese food and beverage company, Vietnam F&B Alliance Investment Joint Stock Co.
The company, which was incorporated on Sept. 27 for management consultancy and investment holding activities, owns Vietnam Beverage.
This unit registered for the Sabeco auction, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.