Carlsberg Must Pay Market Price For Habeco Stake, Official Says
Carlsberg A/S, the Danish brewer negotiating to buy a majority stake in Hanoi Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp., must pay market price if it wants to acquire Vietnam’s second-largest beer maker.
Carlsberg and the Hanoi-based beer maker, also known as Habeco, are working out “issues” in negotiations for the European company’s efforts to expand its stake in the brewer, Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue said in an interview.
The European beer maker wants to increase its Habeco stake to 61.79 percent from 17.51 percent in the Hanoi brewer, Tayfun Uner, former chief executive officer of Carlsberg Vietnam, said in late 2016.
Vietnam is accelerating efforts to offload stakes in companies it owns to narrow a fiscal deficit.
The sale of shares in Habeco comes after Thai Beverage Pcl partnered with a local company to buy a $4.8 billion majority stake in the nation’s top brewer Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp., or Sabeco, in December.
“To set the initial prices for these stake sales, the government will base the prices on the 20 most-recent trading sessions of the shares,” Hue said in Hanoi. “These companies are not allowed to sell below the floor prices that the government set.”
The European brewer’s negotiations with the government and Habeco “have been characterized by good faith on all sides,” Carlsberg Vietnam said in a statement.
“Carlsberg is supportive of the government’s privatization agenda and has endeavored to serve as a partner for the government as it has worked through the Habeco divestment process, which is substantial and legally complex,” it said.
“Accordingly, Carlsberg would reaffirm its support for the divestment goals and principles put forward by the government, which includes divestment at a fair price.”
Uner said in 2016, when he was running Carlsberg’s Vietnam operations, that the Hanoi brewer’s price on the regulated over-the-counter exchange didn’t accurately reflect the underlying value of the company because of speculative buying on a small volume. Habeco is now traded on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange.
Carlsberg is also seeking to acquire a further 20 percent stake that the government will sell at an auction, Uner said. Foreign investors can have a stake of no more than 49 percent in conditional sectors, which include alcohol companies, unless the government grants an exception. Carlsberg said Uner’s comments were outdated and declined to disclose further details on current talks.
Habeco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Habeco shares have risen 57 percent in the past six months, exceeding the 38 percent gain in Vietnam’s benchmark VN Index. The brewer trades at 41 times estimated earnings for the next 12 months, compared with 33 times for Sabeco -- and about twice the valuations of Carlsberg and other global brands including Kirin Holdings Co. and Heineken NV.