Carlsberg, which wants to increase its stake in one of Vietnam’s largest brewers, is finding the negotiations “hot, complicated, and cumbersome”.
Chief executive of the Danish brewer Cees’t Hart voiced his concerns during a recent trading statement conference call and added that he had visited Vietnam three times to discuss raising the company’s stake in the State-owned Hanoi Alcohol Beverage and Corporation (Habeco).
Last August the Vietnamese government said it wanted to sell its controlling stake in the country’s largest brewer Sabeco, along with its 82 percent stake in Habeco, the second-largest brewer. Carlsberg already has a 17 percent stake in Habeco, with priority purchase rights for a 60 percent stake.
Hart was quoted in February as saying that Carlsberg had not been able to make a bid because there was uncertainty over whether the Vietnamese Government would abide by Carlsberg’s first right of refusal. It was expected that Carlsberg would make a bid in March or April.
The government said last October that it would announce the results of negotiations on its priority purchase rights with Carlsberg by the end of that month. It is still not clear why the process has been drawn out.
But in the intervening period the share prices have fluctuated, and a higher bid than originally expected may be necessary. Pre-tax profits at Habeco, which controls a fifth of the domestic market, increased by 45 percent in the first quarter. Hart is now expecting an update from the government during the second quarter.
“Vietnam wants to equitize three companies this year, and it seems that the first is Habeco, but that changes from time-to-time: first Sabeco then first Habeco,” Hart said.
The beer market in Vietnam has been growing strongly along with the economy, with an annual growth rate of 7 percent from 1999 to 2015. Volume reached 4 billion litres in 2016, and further growth of 4 percent a year is expected until 2021, according to Canadean.
Many other brewing groups are interested in taking stakes in Sabeco and Habeco, including Kirin Holdings, Asahi Group Holdings, Thai Beverage, Heineken and Anheuser-Busch Inbev.