SINGAPORE - Through a World War, the first man on the moon and countless other historic milestones, Asia-Pacific Breweries (APB) represented a successful 81-year marriage between Heineken International and Fraser and Neave (F&N).
Then Thai Beverage Public Co (ThaiBev) appeared, an interloper who managed to sneak a foot in the door.
"We were surprised, obviously," said Heineken chairman and chief executive Jean-Francoise van Boxmeer. "We didn't see that one coming."
Mr van Boxmeer was speaking at a press briefing yesterday, 4½ months after ThaiBev first announced its intention to take a stake in APB.
He reflected on how quickly Heineken's relationship with APB and F&N changed, and reaffirmed Heineken's commitment to growing Tiger Beer as well as keeping the beer rooted in Singapore.
ThaiBev appeared in the mix in July when the Thailand-based brewer of Chang beer and its concert parties agreed to buy stakes in F&N and APB from OCBC Bank, Great Eastern Holdings and Lee Rubber Co.
That move led Heineken, within days, to offer to buy out the APB interests held by F&N, its joint venture partner since the creation of APB in 1931, en route to a $53 per share privatisation bid for APB that is ongoing.
ThaiBev, meanwhile, is currently involved in a takeover battle for F&N itself, sans APB.
"You can be very quick in reacting on acquisitions, on crisis situations...Those things, even if you're a big company, you should act like a missile," Mr van Boxmeer said.
For Heineken, the appearance of ThaiBev threatened to upset a balance that had been reached over time and under "tight" contractual obligations.