Heineken's resolve to buy out APB tested by the Thais

Heineken's resolve to buy out Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) is being tested by a group linked to Thailand's second-richest man as the fight for a bigger slice of the world's last growing beer markets intensifies.

The surprise counter-offer by a company owned by Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi's son-in-law to acquire Fraser and Neave's direct stake in APB surpassed Heineken's bid by 10 per cent. It was the second time the Thai billionaire has put the world's third-largest brewer in a spot.

Last month, companies controlled by Charoen paid $3bn (£1.9bn) for stakes in Singapore-listed F&N and APB, prompting Heineken to launch a $6bn bid for F&N's direct and indirect stakes in APB. Heineken already controls about 42 per cent of APB, mostly through a joint venture with F&N.

"If push comes to shove, Heineken would have to raise its offer for APB," said Roger Tan, chief executive of SIAS Research. "The Thais made a very smart move. They only went in to say they want to buy F&N's stake, so it allows them to be the spanner in the whole deal."

Charoen and his companies, including Thai Beverage, may seek greater control by making a general offer for F&N, Nomura said in a research note, potentially forcing Heineken to make a counter-offer for the Singapore food and property conglomerate.

If both parties clash in a bidding war, Heineken, with a market capitalisation of $31.7bn, may have the upper hand. The maker of Chang beer has a market value of $6.7bn.