Friday 19 July 2019 8:57 am

AB InBev toasts $16bn sale of Australian beer business to Japanese group Asahi

The world’s largest brewer AB InBev has offloaded its Australian business to Japanese group Asahi as it looks to pay down its debt.

In a deal worth $16bn (£9bn), the owner of Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois is calling time on its Australian subsidiary, Carlton & United Breweries.

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The move comes as Brussels-based AB InBev looks to slash its debt pile in the wake of its £79bn acquisition of SABMiller in 2016, which created the world’s largest beer firm.

AB InBev said the majority of the proceeds from today’s agreement, which is expected to close in the first quarter of next year, will be used to reduce its debt burden.

Last week AB InBev pulled its plans for an initial public offering (IPO) in Asia, killing what was set to be the largest float of 2019.

The group blamed “prevailing market conditions” for its decision to scrap the IPO in Hong Kong for its Asia Pacific unit, which it had hoped would raise $9.8bn in Budweiser stock to help cut debt.

Sources close to the IPO told Reuters that investors were not willing to entertain AB InBev’s expectations for the Budweiser APAC business to trade at a valuation multiple above that of peers.

Today AB InBev’s enthusiasm for offering investors a minority stake of Asian business Budweiser APAC, excluding Australia, was still present providing it could be completed at “the right valuation”.

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The Australian acquisition means Tokyo-based Asahi will take ownership of local beer brands such as Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught and Crown Lager.

At the start of this year Asahi also ramped up its UK plans by buying Fuller’s vast beer, cider, soft drinks and distribution business for £250m, marking an end to the pub operator’s 174-year stint as a brewer.