Thai takeover opens exit door for coveted F&N chairman Lee
By John O'Callaghan and Saeed Azhar
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Lee Hsien Yang, the brother of Singapore's prime minister and chairman of Fraser and Neave Ltd (F&N), will enter a new chapter in his corporate life - and could well leave F&N - as the group looks set to be taken over by Thailand's third-richest man.
Lee, 55, the second son of Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, oversaw a bidding war for F&N (FRNM.SI: Quote) that led to Southeast Asia's biggest corporate takeover. The deal values the 130-year-old drinks and property conglomerate at around $11 billion and will reward shareholders handsomely.
Despite some friction with Lee's board, there are compelling reasons for Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi to keep on the astute, well-connected scion as the Thai beer baron looks to unlock value from F&N's drinks business, distribution networks and premier properties.
"He will leave F&N - that's my sense," said Mano Sabnani, a minority shareholder and former senior executive at a Singapore newspaper. "If they wanted him and they asked him then maybe. But Hsien Yang is a very capable chap. For him to get other roles is not a problem."
Lee's future is sure to be a hot topic at a shareholder meeting on Tuesday.
Lee holds 180,000 F&N shares directly, a company filing showed in December, and he is one of three trustees of 408,240 shares held by the estate of Kwa Siew Tee. Kwa is the late father-in-law of Lee Kuan Yew.
Another filing from 2007 shows Lee Hsien Yang bought the direct shares on November 23 of that year at S$5.65 each. At the Thai takeover price of S$9.55 per share, he will make a profit of S$702,000 ($571,600) if he sells to the Thais.
If Lee does leave F&N, the impact will be minimal as the senior management is intact and the business carries on, said a source close to the transaction, speaking on condition of anonymity. Continued...