Shareholders give F&N green light to spin off property arm

PHOTO: Shareholders give F&N green light to spin off property arm

Conglomerate Fraser & Neave (F&N) has won overwhelming shareholder support to separately list its property business Frasers Centrepoint (FCL).

About 150 shareholders attended the meeting at its premises at Alexandra Point yesterday. Its owner, Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, was present too.

In the spin-off, F&N shareholders will get two FCL shares for each F&N share they own.

In the vote, 100 per cent of shareholders, either present or represented by proxies, favoured the new listing.

But the highlight of the meeting, which took less than an hour, was a discussion on F&N's future in relation to its dispute with a Myanmar firm over its stake in Myanmar Brewery.

F&N owns 55 per cent of the brewery, which makes popular beer brands such as Myanmar Beer, Myanmar Double Strong and Andaman Gold and has more than an 80 per cent share of the nation's beer market by volume.

Myanma Economic Holdings, which owns the remaining 45 per cent, said recently F&N has defaulted on part of the joint venture deal, giving it a "clear right" to buy F&N's stake.

The two parties are now in arbitration to resolve the matter.

Documents from last December show earnings from the brewery form the bulk of F&N's food and beverage segment. Losing it might be a blow to what is left of F&N, which is now faced with losing profits from property.

F&N shareholder Mano Sabnani voiced concerns over the viability of its food and beverage business if it loses its stake in the brewery.

He told The Straits Times that F&N directors seemed confident of keeping the stake and felt Myanma had no substantive case.

F&N director Koh Poh Tiong noted opportunities to grow the beverage segment through tie-ups with Mr Charoen's Thai Beverage. He said F&N is "putting a lot of attention" on its beverage business.

A few months ago, it appointed Mr Huang Hong Peng from Asia Pacific Breweries as chief executive of its beer business and Mr Ng Jui Sia, chief executive of F&N's Malaysia-listed F&N Holdings, as chief executive for non-alcoholic beverages.

He said F&N has the potential to grow further and said it had taken the "first five steps of a thousand steps".

The room erupted in laughter when a shareholder asked if that meant F&N's food and beverage business can grow by 200 times.

F&N is expected to have a tougher time with its bondholders today.

Some are outraged at the offer price to buy back the bonds early and claim F&N may accept the default on its bonds if it does not get approval to redeem them earlier, allowing it to pay lenders a smaller compensation.


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