Comment - Wehring's Way: Heineken, F&N, APB, ThaiBev - More Questions Than Answers
Can you read ThaiBev's mind? I can't
Go on, then: Who's going to be brave enough to predict how Heineken's battle for control of Asia Pacific Breweries is going to pan out?
The reason I ask so brazenly, is that I can't quite see a clear path for this one. Ultimately, it boils down to one of two alternatives (I think): Heineken completes its buy-out of Fraser & Neave's stake in the APB brewing JV, or the Dutch brewer will look to take full control of APB from Fraser & Neave's prospective new owners, ThaiBev.
No sooner has the board of Fraser & Neave agreed to recommend Heineken's second offer for its full consideration of APB, than last week ThaiBev launched a bid to take over F&N itself. There's no other cliché for this: It's been a hell of a rollercoaster ride. And, there are bound to be a few more twists and turns before the end comes into view.
Two things are currently unclear. Firstly, no-one's entirely sure where ThaiBev has got its firepower from to launch a US$7.2bn cash bid for all of Fraser & Neave. Secondly, and most importantly for Heineken, what are ThaiBev's intentions in all this? Fraser & Neave, remember, is a Singapore conglomerate with interests in properties and publishing and printing as well as food and beverage. Does ThaiBev want to have a go at 'conglomerating'? Is the firm looking to have a play with F&N's soft drinks brands? Or, is it looking to scupper Heineken's plans and get involved with APB?
I hope Heineken has a better idea than we have. Much as it's hard to read what ThaiBev is looking for in all of this, one would hope that Jean-François van Boxmeer and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi have had a chat or two on the 'phone in the last week or so.
In the meantime, F&N's board is continuing with a roadshow round its main investors, pitching the Heineken offer of SGD53 per share – or US$4.3bn – as a good deal. After all, it'll cost F&N US$45.7m in break-fines if the deal doesn't go through. Heineken, meanwhile, will be preparing plans 'A' and 'B' for either scenario. Any other option, whatever it may be, must be unthinkable for Heineken: After 81 years in APB, the brewer will feel like APB is part of its furniture.
All is set to become a clear a week on Friday (28 September), which, considering F&N's EGM is being held at ten in the morning Singapore time, means the folk in Amsterdam are in for a very long day.
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