Japanese brewer Asahi in $7.8-bn deal to buy AB InBrv's East European beer brands

Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings yesterday struck a deal to buy several central and eastern European beer brands from Anheuser-Busch InBev for €7.3 billion ($7.8 billion) in cash, the largest overseas acquisition by a Japanese beer producer.

The deal will help AB InBev secure regulatory approval for its $104-billion proposed acquisition of its London-based rival SABMiller.

The purchase comes nine months after Asahi agreed to buy SABMiller's Western European brands Peroni and Grolsch for $2.9 billion.

Under the current deal, Asahi, the largest of the four major beer producers in Japan, will buy the businesses and operations in 5 countries in Central and Eastern Europe that were owned by SABMiller prior to its combination with AB InBev, as well as intellectual property rights relating to the brands, including Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic, Tyskie and Lech from Poland, Dreher from Hungary, and Ursus from Romania.

Asahi said that the acquired business had annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of €493.8 million in the year to the end of March.

The completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory approval from the European Union.
The deal will give Asahi a 9 per cent share of the European beer market excluding Russia, behind Heineken with 20 per cent and Carlsberg with 12 per cent.

Bloomberg had in September reported that China Resources Beer Holdings Co., Asahi Group Swiss investment group Jacobs Holding AG, Poland's Kulczyk Investments SA and CVC Capital Partners, are in the race to buy the eastern European operations of SABMiller.

Asahi's sales outside of Japan account for around a fifth its total revenue, and a successful deal to buy SABMiller Eastern European assets would be the biggest ever made by the Tokyo-based company.