Kirin to sell F&N stake to Thai tycoon

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, the Thai billionaire who this week won a hard-fought battle for control of Fraser and Neave, has consolidated his hold over the Singapore-listed property-to-drinks conglomerate after Japan’s Kirin agreed to sell him its 15 per cent stake.

The sale, announced by Kirin on Friday, will increase Mr Charoen’s ownership of F&N to about two-thirds, giving him greater control over the company after it emerged on Wednesday that he had accumulated a narrow majority of 50.92 per cent of its shares.

Kirin, Japan’s largest drinks company, had previously supported a rival bid for F&N by Overseas Union Enterprise, a property and investment group run by Stephen Riady, part of the family that controls Indonesia’s Lippo Group.

OUE had gained Kirin’s support by agreeing to break up F&N and sell its soft-drinks division back to the Japanese company. But the alliance began to unravel in December after JPMorgan, F&N’s financial adviser raised questions about the deal, and Mr Charoen’s ultimate victory in the acquisition contest appears to have left Kirin feeling it had no choice but to sell.

“With the recent major change in F&N’s ownership structure, weighted heavily to TCC, Kirin has determined that it would be difficult to implement its integrated beverages strategy in Southeast Asia with F&N as Kirin’s core partner,” the Japanese company said in a statement.

TCC Assets, Mr Charoen’s privately held investment vehicle, is to pay Kirin S$2bn (US$1.6bn) for the stake, earning the Japanese company a profit that it put at Y47bn ($510m).

Kirin, which has been expanding rapidly outside Japan though a streak of acquisitions of its own, bought the F&N stake in mid-2010 from Temasek, the investment arm of the Singaporean government.

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