Japanese brewer Asahi Group not to bid for SABMiller's Eastern European assets

Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings Ltd yesterday said that it will not bid for the Eastern European assets of SABMiller Plc that Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has put for sale ahead of regulatory approval for their merger.

Last month, AB InBev said that it would sell SABMiller's assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, including the rights to Pilsner Urquell outside the US before the European regulator takes a call on whether to approve its $104 billion proposed acquisition of its London-based rival (See: AB InBev to sell Central, Eastern European brewing assets to win EU antitrust approval) "We have looked into them but we won't raise our hand to buy," Akiyoshi Koji, president of Asahi Group said in an interview.

Instead, Asahi will focus on raising sales of the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime beer brands that it agreed to buy from SABMiller last month for 2.55 billion.

The purchase by Asahi, which covers the premium brands and their related businesses in Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and internationally, is conditional on the AB InBev-SABMiller deal getting regulatory approvals.

In order to satisfactorily meet potential regulatory concerns in various countries, SABMiller has agreed to sell its 49-per cent stake in CR Snow to joint-venture partner China Resources Beer. It has also agreed to protect South African jobs and create a $69-million fund to support the local beer industry to gain approval from the South African Competition Commission.

AB InBev, which owns Stella Artois, Budweiser and Corona, has already struck a deal to sell SABMiller's 58-per cent stake in MillerCoors to Molson Coors for $12 billion to allay competition concerns in the US and earlier this week agreed to an asset swap with Brazilian brewing company Ambev of its businesses in Latin America. (Anheuser-Busch InBev to swap Latin American assets with Brazil's Ambev) The European regulator has said that it will take a decision on 24 May. It could either approve the acquisition or take it forward to a phase-two review, but it appears that AB InBev plans to obtain approval in the first phase itself as the second phase could be time consuming.

In October 2015, AB InBev offered to buy SABMiller for £44 ($68) per share to become the world's biggest beer company with about 30 per cent share of the global beer market (SABMiller agrees to £44 per share takeover bid from Anheuser-Busch InBev).