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Carlsberg eyes at least 51% of Habeco

Released at: 20:56, 09/09/2017

Carlsberg eyes at least 51% of Habeco

Illustrative image (Source:vietnambiz.vn)

Danish brewer keen on majority holding, though foreign ownership limit may stand in its way.

by Quang Huy

Danish brewer Carlsberg is keen on increasing its stake in the Hanoi Beer Alcohol and Beverage Corp. (Habeco) to at least 51 per cent, a local news website has reported, citing an executive from Habeco.

Vietnam has one of the world’s most attractive beer markets and the largest in Southeast Asia, buoyed by a young population that consumed nearly 4 billion liters last year. The government wants to fully divest its majority stake in Habeco and also in its rival, the Saigon Beer Alcohol and Beverage Corp. (Sabeco).

Carlsberg, which has owned 17 per cent of Habeco since 2009, second only to the State’s holding of 82 per cent, has priority purchase rights for a 60 per cent stake and is keen to publicly bid for the remainder of the available shares, according to an earlier proposal from the Danish brewer.

Sabeco, in which the government owns a 90 per cent stake, has also seen interest from foreign players such as Dutch brewer Heineken and Japan’s Kirin.

Vietnam’s Steering Committee for Enterprise Innovation and Development, which oversees the country’s equitization drive, said last month it aimed to “completely resolve problems in the strategic cooperation” with Carlsberg and will inform the Prime Minister of results by November 15.

Habeco remains in talks with the Danish brewer over the stake sale, Deputy CEO Vuong Toan was quoted as saying, adding that foreign companies are not allowed to own more than 49 per cent of the Vietnamese brewer due to foreign ownership limits. Carlsberg said on September 8 that it would not comment on “rumors.”

The government announced last August that it wants to sell its 82 per cent stake for $404 million, or about VND48,000 ($2.11) a share, which according to the CEO of Carlsberg Vietnam, Mr. Tayfun Uner, is a reasonable valuation, or VND50,000 ($2.2) per share - the same price Carlsberg paid in the 2008 IPO.

Carlsberg last month said it had held “several constructive meetings with the Vietnamese government to discuss the equitization of Habeco.”

“We now see good progress in these meetings, and will continue discussions with the Vietnamese government for the next steps,” Carlsberg CEO Mr. Cees ’t Hart told a conference call after its second-quarter earnings were released on August 16.

An expanding middle class and youthful population have helped drive a 300 per cent surge in beer demand in Vietnam since 2002, according to Euromonitor, which estimates the market was worth VND147.2 trillion ($6.5 billion) in 2016. It predicts per-capita consumption will reach 40.6 liters this year, making Vietnam the biggest consumer of the amber fluid in Southeast Asia.

“Vietnam will be the market to watch,” Euromonitor said in a July report on the beer market in the Asia-Pacific region. “Thanks to the strong street consumption culture and rapid urbanization, Vietnam is forecast to see the largest volume growth in the 2016-2021 period.”

As competition intensifies among brewers, more aggressive promotions and new product launches will lead to even higher demand for beer, the report said. Carlsberg and the Netherlands’ Heineken have been fighting for share in Vietnam, driving beer sales “through the roof,” it said.

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