Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings is eyeing up SABMiller’s premium brands Grolsch and Peroni as the UK drinks giant hopes to offload beer brands to ease regulatory scrutiny over its merger with AB InBev.
Asahi confirmed today it was mulling over the deal, reportedly worth 400bn yen (£2.36bn), which would make it the largest overseas buyout in history for any Japanese beermaker.
Many brewers are expected to make a bid for SABMiller’s two brands and the price tag is expected to soar further.
The news of Asahi’s interest comes just days after Danish brewer Carlsberg, previously seen by many analysts as the most obvious buyer, shut down speculation that it was looking to acquire the brands.
Other potential buyers could include US brewer Molson Coors, Irish C&C Group or Dutch Heineken.
In a win-win situation, a deal between SABMiller and Asahi would clear some competition concerns for SABMiller, while simultaneously allowing Asahi to expand internationally.
Today, the brewer is Japan’s biggest with a 38 per cent market share, but remains limited outside the country. Taking over SABMiller’s two premium beer brands would give it a significant foothold in Europe and room for expansion.
Meanwhile, AB InBev’s £71bn takeover of SABMiller has yet to meet regulatory scrutiny.
The acquisition, worth £44 a share, was agreed in November after months of negotiations and extended deadlines from UK regulators. It’s set to create the world’s biggest brewer by far, but competition fears are expected to be a significant hurdle for the so-called beerhemoth deal.
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To ease concerns, AB InBev is already planning to sell off SABMiller’s 42 per cent stake in MillerCoors to co-owner Molson Coors for £8.3bn.
AB InBev’s chief exec Carlos Brito has also spoken in front of a US Senate committee to defend the deal, arguing that the focus of the merger would be accessing new markets in Asia and Latin America rather than impacting the US market.
Asahi shares fell 3.29 per cent to a three-month low on the news.