ForEiGn firms EyE up ViEt­nAm’s stA­tE BrEwErs

Times of Suriname - - ENGELS -

VIET­NAM – Slos­hed back at row­dy open-air “bia hoi” day and night, beer is Viet­nam’s tip­ple of choi­ce and now its cash-strap­ped govern­ment is dra­wing on the na­ti­on’s pen­chant for la­ger to rai­se bil­li­ons of dol­lars by sel­ling sta­kes in sta­te-ow­ned brewers. The un­pre­ce­den­ted di­vest­ments in two sta­te crown je­wels, the ma­kers of the much-glug­ged Sai­gon and Ha­noi beers, are ex­pec­ted to net as much as $2.2 bil­li­on. The sa­le co­mes as part of long-pro­mi­sed re­forms to pri­va­ti­ze blo­a­ted sta­te firms, which of­fi­ci­al fi­gu­res show con­tri­bu­ted about one third of the coun­try’s GDP last year. It is ho­ped the re­forms will set the com­mu­nist coun­try back on track to meet its am­bi­tious eco­no­mic tar­gets and jump-start growth that has slo­wed this year. For Viet­nam’s govern­ment, beer is a lo­gi­cal pla­ce to start. With a po­pu­la­ti­on of 93 mil­li­on pe­o­p­le, the coun­try is one of Asia’s lea­ding swil­lers of suds. Viet­na­me­se con­su­med mo­re than 3 bil­li­on li­ters of the cold stuff last year, ac­cor­ding to mar­ke­ting firm Eu­ro­mo­ni­tor. That thirst has pi­qued in­te­rest from foreign brewers ea­ger to tap growth mar­kets at a ti­me when sa­les in ma­ny de­vel­o­ped mar­kets in Asia are fo­re­cast to pla­teau. “Viet­nam has one of the fas­test-gro­wing beer con­sump­ti­on mar­kets in the world, and that’s ob­vious­ly an ap­peal,” said Ke­vin Snow­ball, CEO of PXP Viet­nam As­set Ma­na­ge­ment in Ho Chi Minh Ci­ty. The govern­ment said this month the two com­pa­nies, Ha­be­co and Sa­be­co, would be li­sted in the first three months of 2017 and would be open to lo­cal or foreign bid­ders. For the Viet­na­me­se who crowd in­to the open-air bia hoi mar­kets du­ring lunch, din­ner and for so­me, in bet­ween, pri­va­ti­za­ti­on pro­mi­ses to keep the good ti­mes rol­ling — as long as the buy­outs don’t mess with flavour. So­me ma­jor na­mes al­rea­dy ha­ve a foot­hold he­re — Hei­ne­ken has about 17 per­cent of the mar­ket, com­pe­ting with other play­ers li­ke Carls­berg and Sap­po­ro — and re­ports say Thai­land’s ThaiBev and Sing­ha Beer may now be rea­dy en­ter the fray, too. But the sa­les could in­stant­ly trans­form a foreign buy­er in­to a top bre­wer: Sa­be­co en­joys about 45 per­cent mar­ket sha­re, whi­le Ha­be­co has 17 per­cent, ac­cor­ding to Eu­ro­mo­ni­tor. The govern­ment says it will sell its 90 per­cent sta­ke of Sai­gon Beer Al­co­hol Be­ve­r­a­ge Corp. (Sa­be­co) for $1.8 bil­li­on, and its 82 per­cent sta­ke in the Ha­noi Beer Al­co­hol and Be­ve­r­a­ge Joint Stock Corp. (Ha­be­co) for $400 mil­li­on. Both com­pa­nies de­cli­ned to com­ment. Eco­no­mists say the govern­ment is sel­ling the sta­kes be­cau­se it is thir­sty for cash. Pu­blic debt hit 62 per­cent of GDP this year ac­cor­ding to of­fi­ci­al fi­gu­res, and is clim­bing clo­ser to the govern­mentsanc­ti­o­ned debt cei­ling of 65 per­cent of GDP. “It’s the right ti­me for the govern­ment to con­si­der sel­ling a num­ber of sta­te-ow­ned com­pa­nies to get mo­re for the bud­get,” eco­no­mist Pham Chi Lan said.


A man walks past kegs of beer at a bre­wery of sta­te-ow­ned Ha­noi Be­ve­r­a­ge Co. (Photo: AFP)

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