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More Vietnamese food companies fall into foreign hands

More and more merger and acquisition (M&A) deals in the food sector have occurred recently, with most of the buyers from Thailand, Japan and South Korea.

More Vietnamese food companies fall into foreign hands

South Korean CJ Cheil Jedang has announced it has acquired a 50 percent stake in Cau Tre JSC, a well-known company that makes food exports.

Before acquiring Cau Tre, CJ also had a 4 percent stake in Vissan, a big meat supplier. 

Roh Woong Ho, CJ’s SE Asia Business Director, said the group plans to spend $500 million to penetrate the Vietnamese food market, a large market with 90 million consumers.

Another big company from South Korea, Daesang Corp, has spent $33 million to acquire 13 million shares of Duc Viet Food, the nation’s biggest sausage manufacturer. 

Food corporations from Japan and Thailand are spending big money to contribute capital or buy a stake in Vietnamese companies, attracted by the stable growth rate of 10-15 percent per annum. 
More and more merger and acquisition (M&A) deals in the food sector have occurred recently, with most of the buyers from Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
The best known Vietnamese brands such as Cholimex Food and Sai Gon Food all have foreign capital contributions.

BMI forecast that the food consumption in Vietnam in 2011-2016 would increase by 5.1 percent, or $29.5 billion, while the consumption per head is estimated at VND5.8 million a year by 2016.
Experts believe that M&A is the best choice for Vietnamese companies, which have strong brands, but don’t have a long-term development strategy or are facing difficulties.

However, Nguyen Lam Vien, president of Vinamit, said it would be a risk if Vietnam, which has lost the ‘software’ (marketing and strategy to conquer consumer hearts), now loses the ‘hardware’ (production) as well. 

If this happens, Vietnamese enterprises would no longer master the economy, but they would become dependent and just do outsourcing for foreign companies. 

If so, Vietnamese enterprises would be at the bottom of the value chain, while foreign enterprises would get the biggest piece of the cake.

Vien doesn’t believe that foreign investors, after contributing capital, would let Vietnamese partners continue controlling enterprises. 

Vinamit once sold 20 percent of its stake to a foreign fund, but it gave back the money a short time later after realizing that the fund did not want to be Vinamit’s partner, but just wanted to own the company.

The battle between Vietnamese shareholders in Bibica, a sweets manufacturer, with Lotte, a strategic investor from South Korea, continued for seven to eight years. 

Lotte showed its intention to swallow Bibica just a short time after signing a cooperation agreement. 

In 2012, Lotte attempted to eliminate the Bibica brand and change it to Lotte-Bibica, but this was rejected by Bibica’s shareholders.

Meanwhile, Van Duc Muoi from Vissan said the disappearance of small businesses amid the attack from big foreign companies is unavoidable.

Thanh Lich

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