September 13, 2018 / 9:16 AM / 3 months ago

Vietnam PM urges Carlsberg to raise stake in Vietnam brewer Habeco

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam’s prime minister has urged Danish brewer Carlsberg (CARLb.CO) to raise its 17 percent in beermaker Habeco BHN.HM, the government said on Thursday as it seeks to step up the privatisation of state assets.

FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Carlsberg beer are seen in a bar in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 17, 2014. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk/File Photo

The Southeast Asian nation is one of the biggest beer markets in the region, with a young population and economic growth expected to drive future demand for brews.

“Vietnam is speeding up its privatisation drive ... and this is a chance for foreign investors, including Carlsberg,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told Carlsberg chief executive Cees’t Hart in Hanoi, the government said in a statement.

The two met on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum meeting in Vietnam’s capital.

Carlsberg currently holds 17.34 percent of Habeco and has expressed an interest in raising the stake, but discussions have dragged for years.

“The Prime Minister suggested both sides should soon discuss and resolve any remaining issues for the stake sale,” the statement said.

It quoted Hart as saying Carlsberg wanted to invest significantly in Habeco, and has been in talks with Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade to facilitate the investment.

The government has said it wants to fully divest its 81 percent stake in Habeco, Vietnam’s number three brewer and known for its Hanoi and Truc Bach brands.

The government sold a 53.59 percent stake in the country’s largest brewer, Sabeco SAB.HM, to ThaiBev (TBEV.SI) for $4.84 billion last year.

Sabeco, known for its Bia Saigon and 333 brews, holds roughly 40 percent of Vietnam’s beer market. Habeco has a 16 percent share of the market.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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