Singapore Markets closed

Thai tycoon completing F&N takeover

A Thai tycoon on Tuesday mopped up more shares of Fraser and Neave (F&N) to complete its takeover of the Singapore conglomerate after an Indonesian rival backed out of a bidding war.

Billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi's vehicle TCC Assets is offering to buy F&N shares it does not already own at Sg$9.55 ($7.80) apiece until February 4, valuing the company at Sg$13.75 billion.

TCC Assets said in a statement shortly before noon (0400 GMT) on Tuesday that additional purchases had raised its stake in F&N to 42.50 percent excluding acceptances, bringing it closer to obtaining majority support.

The offer becomes unconditional once shareholder acceptances reach more than 50 percent, according to trading rules.

Singapore's Straits Times newspaper said if the takeover pushes through, it will be the biggest in the city-state's corporate history.

F&N became a takeover target after it sold off its most prized asset, Tiger Beer maker Asia Pacific Breweries, to Dutch giant Heineken in September.

It still has lucrative beverages, property and publishing operations.

TCC Assets' rival, property firm Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE), gave up the fight when it said after a final auction process was launched Monday that it was not revising its Sg$13.1 billion bid tabled in mid-November.

OUE is linked to Indonesian tycoon Mochtar Riady.

"With no other competing offer, investors are likely to accept TCC's Sg$9.55 offer," Japanese brokerage Nomura said in a market note.

"Although TCC's offer is below our fair value (estimate) of Sg$10.48, we believe most investors will likely accept TCC's offer. TCC looks set to control F&N."

Jason Hughes, head of premium client management at IG Markets Singapore, agreed.

"It is clear now that TCC have made a significant enough move in raising their offer and purchasing stock in the open market to allow us to comfortably call this as game over for this takeover battle," he said.

"It seems unlikely that we would get another player entering this at this late stage, particularly as TCC now own over 40 percent of F&N. So existing shareholders now have to decide whether to accept this TCC offer or not," he told AFP.

"I think enough shareholders will accept this revised offer, especially as it is now a one-horse race."

Monday's auction was called by a Singapore share market watchdog after TCC Assets and OUE sought several extensions to revise their offers for F&N, causing uncertainty among its shareholders.

Nomura said that once the offer becomes unconditional, TCC Assets was likely to integrate its food and beverage operations with that of F&N.

Charoen's TCC Group has a real estate unit, and the tycoon also owns Thai Beverage, which sells Chang beer.

Analysts said the market will be watching whether Japanese brewer Kirin, which holds a 15 percent stake in F&N, will sell its interests or remain a minority shareholder.

Kirin had allied itself with OUE in the bidding war. Its 15 percent stake is worth more than Sg$2.0 billion at the rate offered by TCC Assets.

F&N shares closed at Sg$9.55, the same price as what Charoen is offering and down 1.95 percent from Monday, when the stock closed at Sg$9.74.