Vietnam: Green light for ThaiBev to acquire up to 100% of Sabeco

Thai Beverage (ThaiBev) has been given green light to take full control of Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp. (Sabeco) should the other shareholders sell their stake in Vietnam’s leading brewing group and ThaiBev’s local arm Vietnam Beverage Company be willing to transfer its 54% to the parent company.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance removed on Monday a foreign ownership cap of 49 percent, which had been introduced in the run-up to the privatization last year to prevent a sale of the “crown jewels”of Vietnam’s industry to foreign investors. (, 1.8.2017) With the new decree the ministry officially approved a maximum 100 percent foreign ownership rate in the former state-owned brewing group.

Last December, the socialist republic sold a 54 percent stake in Sabeco at an auction for a record price of $4.84 billion. Buyer was Vietnam Beverage Company, a Vietnamese company especially founded by Thai Beverage (ThaiBev) from Thailand to be able to acquire a majority in Sabeco. (, 18.12.2017). Several other international companies including AB InBevKirin HoldingsAsahi Group Holdings and San Miguel also showed interest in Sabeco (, 1.8.2017) but stayed away from the auction because of the said restrictions in ownership.

Besides ThaiBev’s 54 percent majority stake, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade still holds about 35.6% in Sabeco. The remaining 10.4% of the company's shares represent free float, with Dragon Capital, an independent domestic asset manager, being the largest single shareholder. (, 17.3.2018)

The decree is likely to be an indicator that Vietnam wants to sell also its remaining stake in Sabeco. In addition, this moves may also ease the faltering privatization process of Hanoi Beer Alcohol and Beverage Company (Habeco), the second state owned brewer, in which Carlsberg already holds 17.34 percent. The Danish brewer officially expressed its intention to acquire the majority of Habeco but also struggled with the 49% percent foreign ownership cap. (, 8.9.2017)

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