Thais boost challenge to Heineken for Tiger Beer maker

Fraser and Neave (F&N) said Monday that Thai Beverage has raised its stake in the conglomerate, a move seen to boost its challenge to Heineken for control of Asia Pacific Breweries (APB), the maker of Tiger Beer.

Thai Beverage, owned by billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, has been beefing up its stake in F&N amid a tussle with the Dutch brewer for APB, F&N's most prized asset.

In a filing with the Singapore Exchange, F&N said International Beverage Holdings Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Thai Beverage, has bought a total 29.53 million shares in the company.

This increased the stake of Thai Beverage in F&N to 26.2 percent from 24.1 percent.

Thai Beverage's bigger stake is important because F&N is a major owner of APB, the target of a takeover bid by Amsterdam-based Heineken.

The Dutch brewer has proposed to buy long-time partner F&N's 40 percent direct and indirect stakes in APB for Sg$5.1 billion ($4.1 billion) or at Sg$50 a share.

Heineken already holds 42 percent of APB and is seeking full control of the company in a bid to expand its presence in the fast-growing Asian beer market.

F&N's board earlier this month accepted Heineken's offer and agreed to recommend it to shareholders at an extraordinary general meeting which has yet to be set.

But the Thais have mounted a challenge to the Heineken bid.

Kindest Place, a company owned by a son-in-law of Charoen, last week made an unsolicited offer of Sg$55 a share for the 7.3 percent stake in APB held directly by F&N, or 10 percent higher than Heineken's offer.

Kindest Place already holds 8.6 percent of APB.

At the same time, Charoen's Thai Beverage has also been gradually building its interest in F&N since July, giving it a bigger say on Heineken's offer. The other major shareholder in F&N is Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings.

Apart from Tiger, brands like Thai Beverage's Chang Beer, San Miguel from the Philippines and Indonesia's Bintang, also owned by APB, are competing with Heineken, Denmark's Carlsberg and other brands from developed economies.

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