Vietnam’s biggest brewer to sell its majority stake

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A man pours Saigon beer to cups in a restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam. Reuters

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam said yesterday 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 cash-strapped government seeks to pay off public debt.

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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 then 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 privatisation 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.

Public debt in the communist country 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.

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