United Engineers shares jump on potential investment from Thai tycoon

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi (right), Thai billionaire who controls Thai Beverage (ThaiBev), maker of Thailand’s Chang Beer. United Engineers called for a trading halt on Thursday morning, after its share price surged following reports that the t
Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi (right), Thai billionaire who controls Thai Beverage (ThaiBev), maker of Thailand’s Chang Beer. United Engineers called for a trading halt on Thursday morning, after its share price surged following reports that the tycoon might buy a stake in the property, engineering and construction group.  -- PHOTO: THE NATION, BANGKOK

SINGAPORE - United Engineers called for a trading halt on Thursday morning, after its share price surged following reports that a Thai tycoon might buy a stake in the property, engineering and construction group.

The counter hit a high of $2.49 in just over two hours of trading, 20 cents above its previous closing price of $2.29 on Wednesday.

This prompted a query from markets regulator Singapore Exchange (SGX) at 10.39am on Thursday.

United Engineers requested an immediate trading halt at 11.13am, pending the release of an announcement. Its shares last changed hands at $2.46.

Speculation that Thai tycoon Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi could become a shareholder may have been behind the price hike.

Bloomberg had reported that local bank OCBC is in talks to sell its stake in United Engineers to Mr Charoen, citing people familiar with the matter.

A filing in August last year showed OCBC, its insurance unit Great Eastern and the bank's founding Lee family together own 34.1 per cent of United Engineers.

OCBC declined to comment on the deal when queried by The Straits Times.

This would not be the first time that OCBC is doing business with Mr Charoen. The bank sold its holdings in Fraser & Neave and Asia Pacific Breweries to Mr Charoen's firm, Thai Beverage, in 2012.

OCBC shares last traded at $10.43, up five cents, while Thai Beverage shares added half a cent to 67.5 cents as of 11.39am.