Majority shareholder seen as hurdle to yeo Hipa Seng's takeover - analysts

By Rizza Sta. Ana

Nov 18, 2013 10:06 AM EST

Analysts said should investors eye the Asian markets for potential acquisition targets, beverage company Yeo Hiap Seng Ltd would be one of the most attractive. Moreover, data compiled by Bloomberg indicated that Yeo's trades were relatively cheaper than the cash flows of majority of its Asian peers. However, potential investors might need to overcome the biggest hurdle in acquiring Yeo's in its majority shareholder.

People familiar with the offers said the Ng family had rejected bids to acquire the majority stake it owned in Yeo's. Nonetheless, Malayan Banking Bhd was confident in saying that the family's rejection will not hinder future offers.

Singapore-based market analyst Kelly Teoh at IG Asia Pte said, "They have great distribution, a household name and revenue growth. There aren't many household names left that have very strong branding and a story to go with it."

From its humble beginnings in 1900 as a seller of soy sauce, the company founded by Yeo Keng Lian had expanded its beverage business by selling chrysanthemum tea, soy milk and canned chicken curry. 86% of Yeo's revenue last year came from Malaysia and Singapore, while Hong Kong and China comprised 4% of the company's revenue. Yeo's sales had jumped 28% with profit climbing 65% accordingly to SGD70.4 million or USD56 million.

Maybank analyst James Koh said a deal for Yeo's will be very tricky. "They would be of interest to acquirers interested in boosting their presence in this part of the world. Whether Far East would sell is another story. They don't really need the money," Koh said over the phone.

The Ng family controls Yeo's via its Far East Organization. The largest closely held developer in Singapore, Far east acquired a major holding in Yeo's in 1995. The buyout had put Yeo's valuation at SGD760 million. Far East owns 65% of Yeo's, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.

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