* Govt stake in Sabeco, Habeco valued at $2.2 bln
* Vietnam is one of Asia’s hottest beer markets
* Foreign and local investors eyeing beer assets (Adds quotes of official, background)
By Mai Nguyen
HANOI, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Vietnam’s government will list all its shares of top state-owned brewers Sabeco and Habeco on local stock exchanges before considering if any foreign beer makers or other investors can take a controlling stake, a senior government official said.
The government, which owns an estimated $2.2 billion worth of shares in the firms, has already stated its intention to sell the stakes at the best possible price but wants to use a transparent mechanism to value the companies, Phan Dang Tuat, the industry and trade ministry official overseeing the stake sale process, told Reuters in an interview.
Vietnam’s government is seeking to fully divest its 89.6 percent ownership in No.1 local beer firm Sabeco, formally known as Saigon Beer, Alcohol, Beverage Corporation, and 82 percent in smaller brewer Habeco, or Hanoi Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp.
Several international brewers have already expressed interest in bidding for strategic stakes in the two companies. A listing on the stock market of the government’s holdings instead of an auction could make them reassess their plans.
Vietnam’s beer market is growing at an average compound annual rate of 7 percent from 1999 to 2015 and touching about 4 billion litres in 2016. Growth is anticipated at around 4 percent till 2021, data from research firm Canadean quoted by investment bank Liberum showed.
Known for its Bia Saigon and 333 brews, Sabeco owns 40 percent of Vietnam’s beer market, while Habeco and a local joint-venture of Heineken hold 20 percent each, Liberum said in its report.
The government has said it wants to list Sabeco before selling 53.59 percent, worth an estimated $1 billion, this year and the remainder in 2017, but Tuat said the government is reconsidering this plan.
The state also plans to sell all of its shares in Habeco worth an estimated $400 million in 2016. The listing was expected to give the government a good idea of pricing for any strategic sale.
“The Prime Minister has ordered to sell the shares publicly and transparently,” Tuat said, adding strategic stake sales were not presently under consideration.
Sabeco’s chief executive Le Hong Xanh told Reuters this week the company may debut on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange by early December, but Tuat said the listing may be delayed to 2017.
Habeco is slated to list all shares on Vietnam’s unlisted public company market (UPCoM) and wants to eventually list on the Ho Chi Minh bourse, Tuat said.
Kirin Holdings, Asahi Group Holdings, Thai Beverage, Heineken and Anheuser Busch Inbev SA are among around 20 investors who have expressed interest in the assets which also includes financial investors, said Tuat, a former Sabeco chairman.
The companies have been mentioned before as potential stake buyers and have mostly either declined to comment or not responded to Reuters’ queries. (Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Additional reporting by Ritsuko Shimizu in Tokyo, Martinne Geller in London, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels and Manunphattr Dhanananphorn in Bangkok; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)