Singapore's F&N trade halted on eve of Heineken deadline

Singapore food and beverage group Fraser and Neave (F&N) and affiliate Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) halted trading Thursday pending an announcement, fuelling renewed speculation of a takeover battle.

The suspension came on the eve of a deadline from Dutch beer giant Heineken for F&N to accept its offer for a full takeover of the group's crown jewel APB, best known for Tiger Beer.

Heineken's offer, which lapses on Friday after a week-long extension, had set off expectations of a scramble for F&N's assets involving other foreign players eyeing Asia's growing thirst for beer and other beverages.

F&N has major soft-drink and dairy assets, book publishing and printing operations, condominiums, commercial property and serviced apartments, in addition to beer.

Heineken and F&N have been longtime partners in Asia. Heineken currently owns 41.9 percent of APB, while F&N holds 40 percent.

Kirin Holdings of Japan owns 15 percent of F&N and has been mentioned by analysts as a potential bidder for the Singapore group's assets along with Thai Beverage.

On July 20, Heineken offered Sg$50 a share for F&N's entire stake in APB, a premium of Sg$8 over its previous closing price.

Since then, APB shares have risen as high as Sg$52 but were trading at Sg$49.50 when the market closed on Wednesday.

Heineken has said that if it was "denied the ability to extend its offer to all APB shareholders, it will review all options available to protect its commercial interests".

Heineken's offer came after companies linked to Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi secured separate deals to buy a 22 percent stake in F&N and a 8.6 percent stake in APB.

Charoen's Thai Beverage has since moved to raise its stake in F&N to 23.9 percent.

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