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2012: Olam fights stains of Muddy Waters

F&N takeover for the history books; Europe deals with debt crisis.
Monday, September 19, 2016 - 05:50
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INVESTMENT firm Muddy Waters published a critical report about commodities trader Olam International in November, the first time a prominent Singapore-listed company had come under a publicised short-selling attack.

But Muddy Waters had underestimated the level of support that Olam had from Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings, which raised its stake in Olam and was instrumental in helping the company to emerge from the scuffle with only mild bruises.

On the merger and acquisition (M&A) front, the takeover of historic drink maker Fraser and Neave (F&N) began with a quiet sale of the stakes then held by OCBC Bank, Great Eastern Holdings and Lee Rubber Co. The buyer of those shares turned out to be Thai Beverage Public Co, a company controlled by Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi.

That transaction led to bidding wars not just for F&N but also for iconic Tiger Beer maker Asia Pacific Breweries, which was then an F&N unit. Taken together, the M&A deals surrounding the takeover of F&N were the largest in Singapore history.

The battle for F&N was also notable for pushing the boundaries of existing takeover conventions and rules, such as the introduction of an auction process to break a stalemate. The Takeover Code was later amended to include the auction process and other clarifications resulting from the takeover.

The European sovereign debt crisis hit its nadir in 2012 as fears of a default in Greece spread to other members of the eurozone, with credit ratings agencies downgrading Spain, Italy and even France.

Outside of bond markets, stagnant or negative growth led to deep dissatisfaction among the populace in affected countries, resulting in electoral defeats for political incumbents and street protests. While the worst fears were averted, Europe remains under a cloud of a dismal economic outlook in 2016.

The Business Times has been there to report and analyse the most significant news since 1976. Every week, this feature will showcase excerpts from the biggest stories for each year that the paper has been in operation. The full text of all the stories can be found online at bt.sg/bt_40

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