Tag Archives: equitization

ThaiBev’s Record $4.8 billion Vietnam M&A Deal Verifies Foreign Ownership Limit Work-Around

Pros and Cons of the ThaiBev-Sabeco Structure

ThaiBev affiliate’s legal status as a Vietnamese domestic investor enabled it to acquire a majority stake in Sabeco, despite a foreign ownership cap of 49%.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) auctioned off a majority stake in Saigon Beer – Alcohol – Beverage Joint Stock Company (Sabeco) on 18 December 2017. The former State-owned enterprise has a 40% share of the Vietnamese beer market. The Thai Beverage (ThaiBev) affiliate Vietnam Beverage acquired a 53.59% stake for VND 110 trillion (or roughly US$4.85 billion) – a record for Vietnam.

Sabeco's stock chart

No other companies – domestic or foreign – submitted bids despite much interest. One of the reasons could have been the high price. As seems to happen often in anticipation of such sales, within 6 months before the MOIT announced the auction, Sabeco’s share price had risen about 75%. Vietnam Beverage paid VND 320,000 per share – a 2017 P/E ratio of almost 47 times. The price fell quickly after the deal went through, and the shares have been trading within a narrow band around VND 255,000 for the past few weeks.

Besides the price, the other main reason for international investors holding back could have been a combination of Sabeco’s foreign ownership limit and the timing between the official announcement, bid registration, and auction date. Even ThaiBev admitted in its 22 December 2017 Singapore Exchange (SGX) filing that the timeline for the submission of bids was “extremely tight” and that they had to make compromises, including not obtaining official shareholder approval in advance and in terms of financing of the deal. While timing is very important, we will take a closer look at Sabeco’s foreign ownership limit and legal structure of ThaiBev’s investment here. Understanding the structure first can help investors to position themselves for future deals and meet tight deadlines.

The ThaiBev-Sabeco structure

We illustrated the legal structure of ThaiBev’s investment in Sabeco in the following chart based on publicly available information. We have suggested this structure since 2015, when Vietnam’s then-new Investment Law came into force. Our interpretation of Article 23 of the Investment Law is that subsidiaries of companies registered in Vietnam with a foreign ownership of less than 51% can conduct investment activities under the same conditions as domestic investors. The Sabeco deal confirms the validity of this structure in practice, even for bigger deals, and that foreign ownership limitations do not apply to such subsidiaries.

ThaiBev-Sabeco structure chart

Here, Vietnam Beverage is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Vietnam F&B Alliance Investment Joint Stock Company (Vietnam F&B). ThaiBev’s indirectly wholly-owned subsidiary BeerCo Limited, a Hong Kong company, owns 49% in Vietnam F&B. Because BeerCo’s stake in Vietnam F&B is less than 51%, Vietnam F&B’s subsidiary Vietnam Beverage is not subject to investment conditions that apply to foreign investors. Therefore, Vietnam F&B could buy Sabeco shares as a domestic investor.

Sabeco’s foreign ownership limit

ThaiBev announced that it chose the above domestic-company structure to acquire a majority stake in Sabeco, because of Sabeco’s foreign ownership cap. Under Vietnamese securities regulations, foreign investors can only own up to 49% (in aggregate) of a public company where the company has registered so-called “conditional” business lines (unless otherwise provided by international treaties or domestic law).

A conditional business line is an activity that is subject to additional requirements, such as a special business license. Like many Vietnamese domestic companies, Sabeco had a long list of registered business lines, including conditional activities, e.g. – distribution and real estate trading. (By law, a company in Vietnam must register all its business activities.) Without substantially restructuring its business, Sabeco’s sale to foreign buyers was limited. Considering the 49% cap and that foreign investors had already owned 10.4% of Sabeco (including Heineken’s 5%), less than 39% of the total 54% for sale in this round were available to foreign buyers. But as a domestic investor, ThaiBev’s affiliate Vietnam Beverage could buy a majority stake.

To what extent does ThaiBev control Sabeco?

The 4.8 billion-dollar question is ThaiBev’s level of control over Sabeco. Although, Vietnam Beverage has a 54% majority stake in Sabeco, Vietnam Beverage is wholly owned by Vietnam F&B, where ThaiBev’s wholly-owned subsidiary BeerCo owns only a minority stake.

Politics and other levers aside, from a pure legal perspective, the general meeting of shareholders (GMS) can pass ordinary resolutions with approval of attending shareholders representing at least 51% of the votes. Special resolutions require at least 65%. Likewise, decision in the board of management (akin to a board of directors in some other jurisdictions) require a simple majority of all attending board members. Although, Vietnam’s Enterprise Law permits that companies stipulate higher voting thresholds in their charters, Sabeco’s most recent publicly available charter sets out the same default 51% and 65% ratios for the GMS and 51% for its 7-member board. Therefore, Vietnam Beverage can now unilaterally control ordinary resolutions of Sabeco’s GMS (except for related party transactions) and can vote its nominees to the board.

However, ThaiBev may not fully control Vietnam Beverage, because it only has 49% minority stake in Vietnam F&B. Two Vietnamese individual shareholders own 51%. According to ThaiBev’s 22 December 2017 SGX filing, “One of the Vietnamese investors in Vietnam F&B is a business person [who] is in the same group as the Company’s distributor of alcohol beverages in Vietnam. The other Vietnamese investor is the Company’s local business consultant [who advised] the Company in relation to the [Sabeco acquisition].

This raises a number of questions similar to those that arise in nominee companies in Vietnam: How much control can ThaiBev/BeerCo exert over the two Vietnamese shareholders in Vietnam F&B?

  • Did BeerCo and the Vietnamese shareholders enter into a properly drafted shareholders’ agreement and approve a charter for Vietnam F&B with reserved matters and other guards to give BeerCo more control? (NB: Vietnam’s Enterprise Law permits voting preference shares only with Government approval and only to founding shareholders for maximum three years.)
  • What happens with the dividends from Sabeco/Vietnam Beverage – will the two Vietnamese shareholders get 51%? (Dividend preference shareholders have no voting rights, so that wouldn’t be in BeerCo’s interest.)
  • Can ThaiBev buyout those Vietnamese shareholders? How much will it cost? (The market value of Vietnam F&B should be sky high now.)
  • What if they sell their stakes to a competitor?
  • Will the courts enforce the shareholders’ arrangements when contested (less than 30% of Vietnamese court judgments are enforced in Vietnam; let alone foreign arbitral awards)?

We do not know for sure, as Vietnam F&B’s documents are not public, but those are a few of the potential risks of the ThaiBev-Sabeco structure.

New Investment Law and management committee for SOE equitization

It is important to note that Vietnam is in the process of amending its Investment Law (again, after less than three years in force). The first published draft has revised provisions that affect M&A activities – including the dreaded pre-M&A approval requirement. The ThaiBev structure may or may not work in the future. At the earliest, we expect the new law to come into force in 2019. So, upcoming SOE divestments including Habeco, PV Power, PV Oil as well as the sale of the MOIT’s remaining 35% of Sabeco might still be in time to apply the above structure if they close in 2018.

In addition, the Government plans to establish a new State capital management committee to coordinate divestments of all State-owned assets taking over powers from the various ministries and State Capital Investment Corporation (SCIC).

Pros and cons of the ThaiBev-Sabeco structure

+ Allows foreign investors to participate in investments under the same conditions as domestic investors.

– No full ownership and limited control over those investments.

For more information, please contact Manfred Otto at  MOtto@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer you are regularly communicating with at Duane Morris.

Disclaimer: This post has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. Each case should be analyzed individually with the support of competent legal counsel. For more information, please see the firm’s full disclaimer.

『ベトナム国有企業M&A~コーポレートガバナンス』2017年11月16日プレゼン資料

2017年11月16日に日本アセアンセンターが開催した「ベトナム政府との対話~国有企業の株式化とM&A~in 東京」と題したセミナーの私のプレゼン資料です。

トピック

「ベトナム国有企業M&A~コーポレートガバナンス」

  1. 機関設計
    株主総会、取締役会、社長など
  2. 少数株主の権利保護
    株式譲渡制限に関する定款・契約条項

ダウンロードリンクは以下です。

171116 Vietnam SOE and M&A-ASEAN Centre-Otto-JP.pdf

ご質問等ございましたら、オットー(MOtto@duanemorris.com)または弊所で通常連絡を取っている担当弁護士までご連絡ください。

Organization Chart of a Vietnamese SOE

〈ご注意〉こちらの記事は皆様に情報をお届けする目的でのみ作成・掲載しておりますので、法的なアドバイスとして提供・構成することを目的としておりません。詳細につきましては、当事務所の注意書きをご一読下さい。

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Slides from my recent presentation in Tokyo on “Vietnam State-Owned Enterprises and M&A – Corporate Governance” organized by ASEAN-JAPAN Centre on 16 November 2017.

171116 Vietnam SOE and M&A-ASEAN Centre-Otto-JP.pdf

For more information , please contact Manfred Otto at MOtto@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer you are regularly communicating with at Duane Morris.

Disclaimer: This post has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. Each case should be analyzed individually with the support of competent legal counsel. For more information, please see the firm’s full disclaimer.

Vietnam’s State-Owned Enterprises Equitisation and M&A – 6 July 2017 Presentation Slides

Slides from our recent presentation in Singapore on “SOE Equitisation and M&A – Recent Trends and Corporate Governance”.

Vietnam SOE Equitization and M&A-6 July 2017-Otto-ENG

For more information , please contact Manfred Otto at MOtto@duanemorris.com or any other lawyer you are regularly communicating with at Duane Morris.

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先日シンガポールで開催した「ベトナム国有企業の株式化とM&A~最近の動向とコーポレートガバナンス」についての日本語版プレゼン資料です。

Vietnam SOE Equitization and M&A-6 July 2017-Otto-JP

ご質問等ございましたら、オットー(MOtto@duanemorris.com)または弊所で通常連絡を取っている担当弁護士までご連絡ください。

 

Vietnam  – Real Equitization Progress – Opening State Owned Enterprises up to Foreign Investors except for 11 Sectors

 

Decision No 58/2016/QD-TTg issued by the Government establishes 11 sectors in which the state will retain full ownership (103 SOEs):

  1. Mapping measurement for military and national security purpose;
  2. Industrial explosive material production and trading;
  3. Transmission, system regulation and management of the national electricity distribution grids; multi-purpose hydropower, nuclear power of particularly importance for economy – society attached to defense and security,
  4. Management of infrastructure system of national railway, urban rail invested by the State; running transportation of national rail, urban rail invested by the State;
  5. Air traffic services, notification services of aeronautical information; search and rescue services;
  6. Maritime security (excluding dredging, maintaining public navigable channels);
  7. Public post;
  8. Lottery business;
  9. Publishing (not including printing and publishing publications sectors);
  10. Printing, minting money, producing gold bars and golden souvenirs; and
  11. Credit policy for economic and social development, securing banking system and credit institutions.

It also lists 137 SOEs in which state will retain ownership from below 50%, 50%-65% and over 65%. These SOEs will be equitized during 2016-2020 period. Among these SOEs include big names such as VNPT, Mobifone, Agribank, Electricity Corporations, Post Corporation of Vietnam, Oil & Gas Corporation of Vietnam, etc.

Sectors in which the state will retain ownership of over 65% (there are 4 companies in total) include:

  1. Operation management of airports; operating flight area services;
  2. Navigation information services, surveillance, aviation meteorological services;
  3. Mineral mining of large scale according to current regulations on classification of mine scale;
  4. Exploration, development and exploitation of oil and gas mines; and
  5. Finance and Banking (excluding insurance, securities and fund management companies, finance companies and financial leasing companies).

Sectors in which the state will retain ownership of 50%-65% (there are 27 companies in total) include:

  1. Production of basic chemicals;
  2. Air carriage;
  3. Enterprises whose market share is 30% or higher, having a role to ensure major balance of the economy and stabilize the market, operating in the following areas:
  4. a) Rice wholesale;
  5. b) Focal petroleum imports.
  6. Production of cigarettes;
  7. Provision of telecommunications services with network infrastructure;
  8. Growing and processing rubber, coffee in strategic areas, mountainous and remote area linked to national defense and security;
  9. Enterprises ensuring basic needs for the development of production and improving material life, spirit of ethnic minorities in mountainous, remote and isolated area;
  10. Electricity retail business (consistent with the formation and development of the electricity market levels).

The publication of companies with state ownership will encourage the equitization process. Investors will find it much more easier to know which enterprises still allow for foreign investment. Yet, equitization of SOEs is raising many concerns due to the leaders’ fear of losing their employment to private investors.

The Government should improve information disclosure and lift the cap on the number of strategic shareholders in SOEs so that both the state and private investors find interest in the equitization process.

Clarified regulation on Foreign Ownership Limit

With an attempt to attract more foreign investment in the securities market and expedite the current equitization process, on 26 June 2015, the Government issued Decree No. 60/2015/ND-CP to relax foreign ownership limit in certain sectors.

However, Decree 60 has had a limited impact on the stock market. The complicated and inconsistent procedures restrain private initiatives and onerous requirement of hiring consultant and lawyers constitutes a significant drag for investors.

To encourage foreign capital inflow to the stock market especially for newly privatized SOEs, clear guidelines creating a transparent environment should be established. Indeed, a sustainable investment environment would be supported by a clear statement that the Law on Investment does not apply for public companies but the Law on Securities.

Moreover, enterprises not operating in sectors where there is explicit limit to foreign ownership in Vietnam laws or international agreements to which Vietnam is a party should be eligible to 100% foreign ownership.

In addition, all foreign-invested public companies or public investment funds must be treated the same as local entities, except for specific cases being explicitly stated in the Vietnamese legislation or international agreement to which Vietnam is a party.

Companies operating in the banking sector subject to equitization are quite limited. Foreign ownership should be raised, for instance, to 35% for banks in which the State is a majority shareholders, 49% for private banks and 100% for banks bought at 0VND by the state.

Transparent privatization schedule and enforcement

The privatization schedule as well as bid offers of each SOEs concerned should be publicly published. In order to ensure the equitization efficiency, the State should oblige privatized companies to strictly follow the schedule by imposing fine of 10% of the company’s net profit. Besides, by holding members of the board personally accountable for the company’s violation, the state would press the newly privatized company to meet with the Government’s schemes.

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If you have any question on the above, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com, Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC. Thank you very much!

 

 

Lawyer in Vietnam Oliver Massmann Equitization Quality over Quantity

VIETNAM – Comment on a recent draft from the Ministry of Finance on strategic investors purchasing stakes from equitized state-owned enterprises (SOEs)

Author: Oliver Massmann – Chairman of the Legal Sector Committee – European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam

On 4th August, the Ministry of Finance announced a Draft Decree on converting 100% state-owned enterprises (SOEs) into joint stock companies, which will replace Decree No. 59/2011/ND-CP, Decree No. 189/2013/ND-CP and Decree No. 116/2015/ND-CP.

Although the currently in force Decrees have brought positive results in  the re-structuring of state-owned enterprises since the beginning of the process in 2011, the restructuring quality has proven to be inefficient considering the small percentage of private participation in the company’s charter and management after the privatization. In addition, many big corporations with long financial history will need much more time and have to follow specialized rules to complete the privatization procedure. Many strategic investors have thus found it less attractive to participate in the process.

In order to tackle the above issues and bring substance to the equitization process in the context of new Enterprise Law, Investment Law, etc., there is a need to introduce a new Draft Decree on converting 100% state-owned enterprises into joint stock companies.

In particular, the draft’s Article 6 stipulates that a strategic investor must have the same business sectors as equitized SOEs. In addition, the strategic investor must have at least two years of profits (as of the time for buying stake of SOEs). Moreover, its equity in the latest financial report (which has to be audited by an independent auditing firm) must be sufficient for purchasing the stakes that it registers to buy.

Under the current regulations in Decree 59/2011/ND-CP, the strategic investor is only required to have sound financial capacity, and have a written commitment endorsed by an authorised agency. The commitment must state that after SOEs are equitized, the strategic investor must support SOEs in terms of technology transfer, human resource training, corporate governance, material supply and development of output markets.

This new stricter regulations in the draft will affect foreign firms who wish to buy stakes from SOEs and become strategic partners. In particular, foreign firms must be aware that they are not allowed to freely invest in any SOEs that have business activities not relevant to what they are doing, despite their strong interest in those sectors. This is to prevent cases where inexperienced foreign investors get into the management of the SOEs without having track record ability to manage them, and for example, aim at targeting Vietnam as a trial market for their business expansion.

In addition, we believe that the Government is showing its strong effort to select eligible investors to improve the equitization quality, and to make sure that the investors have proven financial status to efficiently recover the operating at loss status of SOEs. With stricter requirements, the Government will be able to attract investors with serious investment targets and with ability to contribute to the long-term development of SOEs.

Considering these new proposed stricter requirements, it is highly recommended that foreign investors conduct sufficient due diligence on the targeted SOEs, prepare themselves ready in terms of financial capacity and proven management skills, obtaining knowledge about Vietnam’s stock exchange market as well as regulations on bidding to come to a smart investment decision. We expect that with more substantive equitization, foreign investors will have more voice in the SOEs, via which being able to adopt development plans that serve the equitized companies’ future business outcomes, not any individual’s benefits.

Please do not hesitate to contact Oliver Massmann under omassmann@duanemorris.com if you have any questions or want to know more details on the above. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

THANK YOU !