Asahi to buy Peroni, Grolsch from AB InBev


TOKYO: Japanese beer giant Asahi Group said on Tuesday it would buy the Peroni and Grolsch brands from the world’s top brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, clearing a key regulatory hurdle for the Belgium-based firm’s tie-up with SABMiller.

Terms of the deal—which also includes UK craft brewer Meantime—were not released Tuesday, but AB InBev in February said Asahi had offered 2.55 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for the brands.

“This transaction will be completed concurrently with and subject to the completing of AB InBev’s acquisition of SABMiller,” Asahi said in a brief statement, adding that it expected the deal to be completed in the second half of the year.

AB InBev said last year it wanted to sell the Italian, Dutch and British lineup in order to ease competition concerns and win approval from regulators.

In November, AB Inbev—which owns Corona, Beck’s, Budweiser and Stella Artois—announced it had agreed to take over British rival SABMiller for $121 billion, the third largest acquisition in history, that would make it a juggernaut brewing three times as much beer as its nearest rival.

Together, the two brewers would be behind one in three beers sold globally, according to market research group Euromonitor International.

Last month, InBev said it would sell SABMiller’s stake in leading Chinese beermaker Snow Breweries to a local firm for $1.6 billion, in a move that appeared aimed at persuading Chinese regulators to sign off on the giant merger deal.

AB InBev sees the buyout of SABMiller as a key way to counterweight falling beer demand in big markets by building its presence in Africa and other regions where sales are going up.

The Belgian-Brazilian brewer, which saw its net profit fall nearly 4 percent in 2015, earlier warned that problems persisted in once-shining markets in China and Brazil last year, putting even more pressure to finish the SABMiller deal.

‘Opting for European brands’
Asahi is well known abroad for a beer brand called Super Dry, which debuted in 1987 at the height of Japan’s boom years, before a stock market and property crash ushered in a slow economic decline.

The Asahi deal marks one of the largest overseas takeovers for a Japanese beermaker, which have been shopping abroad in recent years to counter a shrinking market at home.

Two years ago, Suntory said it would pay about $16 billion for the US firm behind Jim Beam bourbon in one of the biggest-ever overseas acquisitions by a Japanese company.

The Tuesday deal marks Asahi’s first major European acquisition, and one that could pose challenges for a company unfamiliar with the market, said Credit Suisse analyst Masashi Mori.

“That’s why I have some concerns. Asahi’s main market is still Asia-Pacific,” he added.

But “Asahi and other Japanese firms are now looking for acquisition targets outside Asia-Pacific, where some domestic players are getting bigger and will cost too much for Japanese firms to buy. That is why Asahi is opting for European brands.”

Asahi, whose domestic competitors include Suntory and brewer Kirin, posted annual sales of $1.85 trillion yen ($16.9 billion) last year.



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