A Thai company Tuesday made a counter-offer for a Singapore brewer about to be taken over by Dutch giant Heineken, raising the stakes in a battle for a prime spot in Asia's booming beer market.
Kindest Place, a firm owned by the son-in-law of Thai drinks tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, offered Sg$55 ($44.34) per share for Asia Pacific Breweries (APB), the makers of Tiger Beer, 10 percent higher than the offer by Heineken.
Heineken, which holds 42 percent of APB, had earlier offered to buy out the 40 percent stake of its partner Fraser and Neave (F&N) for Sg$50 per share in a deal worth Sg$5.1 billion ($4.1 billion).
F&N and APB disclosed the new offer in statements to the Singapore Exchange after the stock market had closed.
Charoen's Thai Beverage already owns around 24 percent of F&N, while Kindest Place holds 8.6 percent of APB.
"The company wishes to announce that it has received an unsolicited offer from Kindest Place Groups Ltd... to acquire the company's direct interest in (APB)... at the price of Sg$55 for each share," F&N said in a statement.
It said the offer will lapse at the close of business on August 16 and that the F&N board -- which had earlier accepted Heineken's offer subject to shareholders' approval -- will evaluate the higher offer.
"It will start a bidding war where the board of F&N will now have to go to the shareholders with the fact that they've had a higher offer," said Justin Harper, a market strategist with IG Markets Singapore.
"To see Heineken, a huge giant to come in from Europe and try and take over this prized Asian asset, the ball was always in the court of (the Thai firm) to come in with something," Harper told AFP.
Harper said the F&N board's role now is "to make sure that they're getting the best value for shareholders".
F&N shares closed at Sg$8.28 on Tuesday, up 0.73 percent from the day before, while APB fell 0.02 percent to Sg$48.84.
Heineken shares slumped 2.57 percent, or 1.17 euros, to 44.31 euros ($55.12) on the NYSE Euronext Amsterdam exchange after Kindest Place's counter-offer.
"Now, all the pressure will be on Heineken, who thought they'd won the day, to see if they can better the offer," Harper said.
"They clearly want to get hold of Asian growth and this is very much in the heart of the Asian growth story... I think it could be a drawn-out battle."
Figures from global business consultancy Euromonitor showed that the Asia-Pacific region is the world's biggest beer market with 35.3 percent of the total volume consumed globally last year, up from 34.4 percent in 2010.
Total beer consumption in the region was estimated at 67 million litres in 2011, set to rise to nearly 85 million litres by 2016, thanks to the region's rapidly growing middle classes.
APB's flagship product Tiger Beer is popular across Southeast Asia and is positioned as an exotic premium brand in Europe.
The brewer also makes Bintang, the de facto national beer of economically booming Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy.