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Tycoons Dhanin, Charoen bag key overseas deals

Thai tycoons Dhanin Chearavanont and Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi have poured additional billions of baht into financing their separate dreams of growing their businesses overseas.

Dhanin's Charoen Pokphand Group yesterday announced the completion of the US$9.5-billion (Bt280 billion) acquisition of the 15-per-cent stake in Ping An Insurance, China's second largest insurance firm.

CP Group said yesterday it had won the China Insurance Regulatory Commission's approval to complete the deal, which was announced on December 5.

"In accordance with the terms of the transaction sale and purchase agreement, the Charoen Pokphand Group has made the payment for the full purchase price to HSBC," the Thai agribusiness conglomerate said.

The stake in Ping An was sold by HSBC Insurance Holdings and Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp to four subsidiaries of CP - All Gain Trading, Bloom Fortune Group, Business Fortune Holdings and Easy Boom Developments.

Earlier, there were reports that CP had involved itself with a Hong Kong tycoon who may have financed the deal with illegal money. Quoting sources, Caixin Media's Century Weekly magazine reported that about a third of the 15.2-billion Hong Kong-dollar (Bt60-billion) first tranche of the purchase was funded by the Shinawatra family, while the rest came from businessman Xiao Jianhua.

In a separate development, Charoen's TCC Assets will buy out the 15-per-cent stake in Singapore's Fraser and Neave (F&N) from Japan's Kirin Holdings for 2 billion Singapore dollars (about Bt48.7 billion). It is part of a Bt333-billion deal to take control of the food and property conglomerate.

The Japanese beverage giant said in a statement yesterday that it would sell its 14.76-per-cent F&N stake to TCC Assets.

Charoen has spent months pursuing his goal of taking control of F&N. Thai Beverage, his other business arm, first bought into F&N in July last year. TCC Assets was used as the next tool, as Thai Beverage's debt level had hit a critical level.

At the end of last month, TCC Assets built its stake in F&N above 50 per cent. Now, the stake has increased to 65 per cent, while the S$9.55 offer price is expected to win it more shares from F&N shareholders. It will be confirmed on MondayFebruary 4 whether Charoen gets full control of the Singaporean firm.

Kirin's move followed the decision by another bidder for F&N, Indonesia-based Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE), to pull out of a rare auction called to resolve a protracted battle for the Singapore firm. Kirin had backed OUE's offer with an eye on acquiring F&N's food-and-beverage business if the Indonesian bid had been successful.

"With the recent major change in F&N's ownership structure, weighted heavily to TCC, Kirin has determined that it would be difficult to implement its integrated beverages strategy in Southeast Asia with F&N as Kirin's core partner," the statement read.

F&N has assets from soft drinks to serviced apartments across Southeast Asia. It has a presence in more than 20 countries in Asia-Pacific. Its strong logistics network in the region is expected to materialise Charoen's dream of internationalising his empire.


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