Thai tycoon ups bid for Singapore's F&N

A Thai billionaire early Saturday raised his bid for Singapore's Fraser and Neave (F&N), topping an offer by an Indonesian rival ahead of a planned auction of the conglomerate next week.

In a press release issued at midnight, TCC Assets -- controlled by Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi -- said it was increasing its offer for F&N shares it does not own from Sg$8.88 ($7.24) a share to Sg$9.55.

TCC's latest Sg$13.75 billion offer trumped the Sg$13.1 billion, or Sg$9.08 per share, bid tabled by property firm Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) in mid-November.

However, TCC's new offer is lower than F&N's closing price of Sg$9.58 per share on Friday.

OUE is controlled by Indonesia's Lippo Group, whose founder is Indonesian tycoon Mochtar Riady. His son Stephen is OUE's executive chairman.

F&N became a takeover target in September after selling off its most prized asset, Tiger Beer maker Asia Pacific Breweries, to Dutch brewer Heineken.

A takeover contest between the Thai and Indonesian tycoons has dragged on since then, with both parties seeking several extensions of deadlines to submit their final offers.

The impasse prompted stock market watchdog Securities Industry Council (SIC) to call for an auction, saying that investors needed certainty with regards to the competing offers.

TCC's higher offer is unlikely to derail the auction scheduled to commence on Monday unless one party withdraws its bid. Both parties will still be able to table fresh bids, with OUE under pressure to top TCC's new offer.

Under the auction rules set by SIC, a daily bidding process will take place from Monday until one party gives up.

F&N shareholders had reacted coolly to the original bids, hoping for the offers to be increased.

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