F&N to spin off property arm

Under its new Thai owners, conglomerate Fraser and Neave (F&N) is spinning off its real estate arm into another listed company to streamline operations.

Property unit Frasers Centrepoint Limited (FCL) will be listed separately on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) after two FCL shares are given to F&N shareholders for each F&N share held, it said yesterday.

After shedding the property business, F&N will be a drinks company with a smaller printing and publishing business.

FCL will probably end up much larger than F&N as a pure property company with residential developments, and holdings and management contracts in serviced apartments, shopping malls and office buildings.

Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi evidently believes splitting the drinks and property businesses is the best way to grow F&N, which he valued at $13.75 billion in his takeover - completed early this year.

But in many ways, it is a return to times past for the firm. The real estate arm used to be listed as Centrepoint Properties but was taken private in 2002 and later renamed Frasers Centrepoint. It has since grown substantially.

Going further back, F&N was started in 1883 as a drinks business. The restructuring will return the firm, whose products include the 100Plus sports drink, back to its roots as a virtually pure-play beverage firm.

"We've always been asked why we are into multiple businesses, why a food and beverage group has such a large property business," said F&N chief financial officer Hui Choon Kit, who led a briefing yesterday alongside top FCL executives. F&N chairman Charoen and other top Thai directors did not attend.

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