November 16, 2017 / 8:37 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-Jardine Matheson firm builds up over $900 mln stake in Vinamilk

* Jardine C&C unit buys additional 36 mln shares in Vinamilk

* Latest purchase follows a 5.53 percent stake in dairy firm (Recasts story, adds details on Jardine Matheson, sale process)

By Mi Nguyen

HANOI, Nov 16 (Reuters) - A Jardine Matheson company has built up an 8 percent stake worth $911.5 million in Vinamilk , Vietnam’s biggest-listed company, highlighting a strong interest from foreign groups to expand in one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.

Singapore-listed Jardine Cycle & Carriage Ltd (JC&C) on Thursday said one of its wholly-owned units had bought an additional 36 million shares in Vinamilk, just days after it paid $616.6 million for a 5.53 percent stake in the dairy firm.

The sale comes amid Vietnam’s broader effort to trim its stakes in state-owned firms, including the country’s biggest brewer Sabeco, Vietnam Airlines and Habeco , many of which have low profitability. But progress has been slow, given the small sizes offered, sizeable state control and concerns about vested interests.

A Vinamilk stake sale in 2016 drew in only one buyer, but last week’s sale saw high demand from 19 investors in Vietnam and overseas after the state investor removed some of the restrictions applied to the earlier sale.

JC&C’s previous purchase of Vinamilk stock was made through the open market and an auction by the State Capital Investment Commission of Vietnam, the largest shareholder in the dairy firm. The latest purchases were made via on-market deals only.

The unit is now Vinamilk’s No.2 foreign shareholder, after the 16 percent stake controlled by Fraser & Neave Ltd, a group backed by Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.

JC&C is part of Hong-Kong based Jardine Matheson, one of Asia’s biggest conglomerates which has interests in luxury hotels, motor vehicles, property, food retailing, transport financial services and agribusiness.

Officials at the Ho Chi Minh stock exchange did not provide further details on the latest purchase.

Vinamilk shares rose as much as 1.2 percent to 184,000 dong a share ($8.11 each) on Thursday. ($1 = 22,701 dong) (Reporting by Mi Nguyen, writing by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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