Comment - Wehring's Way - Heineken: Regrets, They've Had a Few?
And now, the end is near, and the Dutch cat has almost got the Asian cream.
Today's vote by Fraser & Neave's shareholders in favour of Heineken's offer to buy up the conglomerate's stake in JV Asia Pacific Breweries has been on the cards for the past week. But, when the race for APB started to hot up earlier this summer, its future was far less clear.
While there will be plenty of back-slapping going on around Heineken HQ today, there will also be a realisation that the process was uncomfortable to the point of unpleasant, and that no-one at Heineken will want to go through that again.
Once a 'mystery bidder' for an 18% stake in Fraser & Neave reared its head in July, concerns grew about the future of APB. These concerns will have been all the more concentrated in Amsterdam. Indeed, three days later, Heineken made its first move.
And, while many observers - and Heineken itself - will be keen to proffer that today's approval represents a win-win for Heineken and Fraser & Neave, it has to be said that Heineken could - and maybe should - have won sooner, and won better. The problem was, however, that by the time Heineken had made its first move, it was already too late.
When that 'mystery bidder' was revealed as being ThaiBev, it was obvious that this was going to be a bumpy ride for Heineken. For two months, the brewer has been stuck on a rollercoaster that only pulled to a standstill last week, when ThaiBev said it would not stand in Heineken's way.
Between Heineken making its first offer and ThaiBev standing aside, the Dutch brewer had to come back with an improved bid for APB.
And yet, today, Heineken CEO Jean-François van Boxmeer told Bloomberg that APB is “worth every dollar we've paid”. Worth every dollar, perhaps, but worth all the stress?
Van Boxmeer also claimed today that this “landmark moment” for Heineken had arrived as the company took the “logical and natural” step to buy out its JV partner. That suggests there was never any doubt.
I seriously doubt that!
In today's media conference call, the longer van Boxmeer highlighted both the existing beer market situation for APB and the potential for the region, the clearer it became that Heineken had to have APB all to itself, no matter what.
Heineken has gone through a stress-inducing couple of months. But, dare I suggest that this stress could have been avoided if, back in 2010, Heineken had moved more forcefully when Kirin bought into F&N?
For now, however, let's allow Heineken its celebrations. The brewer can take a moment to reflect on its strong positions in the beer markets of Europe, Africa, the Americas and in Asia. After all, you can't put a price on securing that broad a coverage of the world's beer markets.
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