Vietnam's biggest brewer to sell majority stake

By AFP   November 29, 2017 | 05:22 pm GMT+7
Vietnam's biggest brewer to sell majority stake
Sabeco's Saigon beers are display for sale in a market in Hanoi, Vietnam April 17, 2017. Picture taken April 17, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Kham

Prices will be set at a minimum of $14 a share at the sale scheduled for December 18.

Vietnam said Wednesday it would sell a majority stake in the country's largest state-owned brewer next month but limit foreign ownership to 49 percent, as the government seeks to pay off public debt.

The long-delayed sale shares in Sabeco, the leading brewer in the beer-obsessed nation, will take place in December and aims to raise $4.8 billion, according to a statement on the company's website.

More than 340 million shares - amounting to 54 percent of the company - are up for grabs, but foreign ownership will be capped to safeguard the local brand, the firm said.

"Foreign investors are allowed to own a maximum of 49 percent of the registered capital of Sabeco," the statement said.

Some 10 percent of Sabeco is already foreign owned, with the rest belonging to the government.

Prices will be set at a minimum of $14 a share at the sale scheduled for December 18, the company added.

The brewer, which owns household beer names Saigon Special and 333, said it was committed to "maintaining and developing Vietnam's beer trademark" in limiting foreign control of the company.

The sale, which officials originally hinted might happen at the beginning of this year, is part of the government's privatization push as it seeks to rein in mounting public debt.

As part of the promised reform, shares of several state-owned enterprises are to be sold off, though plans have repeatedly stalled.

Vietnam's public debt hit 63.7 percent of GDP at the end of last year, and is predicted to inch up to 64.8 percent by the end of this year, according to official figures.

The government-sanctioned debt ceiling is 65 percent of GDP.

With a population of 93 million people, Vietnam is one of Asia's leading per capita beer drinkers, including in Hanoi where ubiquitous "bia hoi" streetside beer markets fill daily with thirsty patrons.

Crown jewels Sabeco and fellow state-owned firm Habeco are the country's leading brewers, though some foreign players such as Heineken, Carlsberg and Sapporo also have a foothold in the market.

Dizzying economic growth has seen per capita incomes in Vietnam more than double in the past decade to over $2,200 today, with newfound disposable incomes largely spent on consumable goods.