* Vietnam selling up to 54 percent in Sabeco
* Some bidders discouraged by rich valuations - sources
* Ministry set to conduct auction on Monday
(Recasts, adds details of Thai Bev's unit seeking to buy all
By Mai Nguyen and Anshuman Daga
Ho CHI MINH CITY/SINGAPORE, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Vietnam's
trade ministry said on Sunday that Vietnam Beverage Co Ltd, a
unit of Thai Beverage, was the only investor seeking
to buy all shares of Vietnamese brewer Sabeco on offer
worth nearly $5 billion.
The keenly anticipated sale of the state-owned maker of Bia
Saigon gained momentum in recent months after being hampered for
years by political resistance, fickle policy-making and
complications over valuations.
The government has set a minimum sale price of 320,000 dong
or $14.10 per share for Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp
(Sabeco), whose shares have nearly trebled to 309,200 dong since
its listing a year ago.
The trade ministry said in a statement on Sunday that two
investors had registered to participate in the Dec. 18 sale
auction for a stake in Sabeco, with Thai Bev's unit Vietnam
Beverage wanting to buy all shares on offer worth around 54
percent of Sabeco.
The other investor is a Vietnamese individual who registered
to buy 20,000 Sabeco shares, or 0.003 percent of Sabeco, the
The formal bid is scheduled for Monday when the two
investors submit their bidding prices.
Vietnam's young population and booming economy should make
Sabeco an attractive asset for global brewers hoping to expand
in Southeast Asia, but a high minimum bid price and foreign
ownership limits appear to have turned off potential buyers.
Sabeco's foreign ownership is capped at 49 percent. With 10
percent already in foreign hands, that leaves only 39 percent on
the table for overseas buyers at Monday's auction. Local bidders
can bid for a majority stake of up to 54 percent. Heineken
holds a 5 percent stake.
Reuters previously reported that the auction was drawing the
interest of brewing groups such as Anheuser-Busch InBev
, Kirin Holdings, Asahi Group Holdings
and San Miguel, but the ministry statement showed that
these brewers would not participate in the auction.
"There's a disconnect between what the government wants to
achieve and how international brewers view this auction," said
one person familiar with the matter.
"In a normal auction, bidders are fully aware of what stake
they'll end up owning and bid for it accordingly," said the
person, who was not authorised to speak to the media.
Unlike similar sales in developed markets, where investors
are whittled down over several rounds and offers can be
adjusted, Sabeco bidders need to submit a single offer for a
specific number of shares in a sealed envelope in one round.
The government's minimum price for the 54 percent stake on
offer valued Sabeco at about 36 times core earnings, more than
double the trading multiples of around 15 for some global peers,
according to Reuters data.
Thai Bev, controlled by tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi,
was keen to acquire Sabeco as part of a strategy to expand
outside its home market, sources told Reuters.
There was no immediate response from Thai Bev to a query
Vietnam's trade ministry is expected to announce the bidding
result on Monday afternoon.
(Reporting by Mai Nguyen and Anshuman Daga; Additional
reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng in BANGKOK; Editing by Stephen
Coates and Gareth Jones)
First Published: 2017-12-17 08:05:04
Updated 2017-12-17 13:43:50
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