Bitter aftertaste follows F&N takeover

Bitter aftertaste follows F&N takeover

For those who make it to the big time, reputation is everything. In fact, it is priceless.

So publicity-shy Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi must find extremely discomfiting the bad publicity dogging Fraser & Neave (F&N). He now owns 90.3 per cent of the conglomerate after mounting a costly $13.7 billion takeover which ended in February.

Still, it is worthwhile to examine if F&N deserves the drubbing: Have the aggrieved parties been unfairly treated by F&N?

Or are they out to exact their own pound of flesh from the Thai billionaire after he paid a hefty 30 per cent premium to F&N's undisturbed price last July to secure the beverage giant?

In recent weeks, the beverage giant found itself battling claims by its erstwhile joint venture partner to buy out the 55 per cent stake of a lucrative beer-making business it runs in Myanmar.

Myanma Economic Holdings (MEHL), linked to the Myanmar military, owns the other 45 per cent of the brewery joint venture and claims it had a "clear right" to buy out F&N's stake.

F&N is also under siege from disgruntled bondholders unhappy with the payout they would be getting in return for agreeing to the spin-off of F&N's property arm as a separate listed firm.

Some market pundits have suggested that the very public spats reflect the hard-nosed manner in which F&N's new owners go about pursuing their businesses.

But so far, F&N has maintained a dignified stand. That, some say, may be unwise in view of the considerable lengths to which its opponents have gone to air their discontent in the media.

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