Asahi to buy SABMiller's European beers in S$11b deal

The Asahi Group Holdings logo at its headquarters in Tokyo on Dec 13, 2016.
The Asahi Group Holdings logo at its headquarters in Tokyo on Dec 13, 2016.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Asahi Group Holdings agreed to buy SABMiller's eastern European assets including Pilsner Urquell from Anheuser-Busch InBev for 7.3 billion euros (S$11.1 billion), as the Budweiser maker ties up loose ends after combining the world's two biggest brewers.

Asahi expects the acquisition to close in the first half of 2017, and is positioning its overseas business as a growth engine to establish itself as a global player, the brewer said on Tuesday (Dec 13). 

The deal further strengthens Asahi's foothold in Europe after Japan's largest brewer agreed to pay 2.55 billion euros for AB InBev's Peroni and Grolsch brands earlier this year. For AB InBev, the divestment brings it a step closer to meeting the anti-trust commitments that allowed it to buy SABMiller for about US$100 billion (S$142 billion) .

"We had estimated a value between US$5 billion and US$6 billion, so the price paid by Asahi looks pretty full and great for AB InBev," Mr Trevor Stirling of Sanford C. Bernstein said. The analyst estimates the market share by beer volume that Asahi will now have in Europe, excluding Russia, is about 9 per cent.

Asahi shares fell 4.6 per cent by the close of Tokyo trading on Tuesday, the biggest drop since June. The purchase would be the largest by a Japanese brewer since Kirin Holdings' A$4.8 billion (S$5.14 billion) acquisition of Australia's Lion Nathan in 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A completed sale would bring some much-needed cheer for AB InBev investors, who have seen the stock slide 15 per cent this year through Monday. In October, the brewer missed profit estimates for the sixth straight quarter, illustrating why it needed to acquire SABMiller.

Asahi and other Japan brewers have been chasing overseas acquisitions to reduce their dependence on a domestic market hampered by a shrinking population. Buying the additional SABMiller brands will also help Asahi attract younger Japanese drinkers with established premium beers, said Haitong International securities analyst Nicolas Wang.