Asahi in Talks to Acquire Peroni, Grolsch for $2.9 Billion

  • Japanese company negotiates with AB InBev for European brands
  • Purchase would be the brewer's largest-ever acquisition

Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. entered exclusive talks with Anheuser-Busch InBev NV to acquire the Peroni and Grolsch beer brands for 2.55 billion euros ($2.9 billion) as the Japanese brewer seeks growth outside a stagnating domestic market.

The proposed purchase of the SABMiller Plc brands would include Peroni and Grolsch in Italy, the Netherlands and the U.K., plus British craft brewer Meantime, Asahi said in a statement Wednesday.

Selling the brands would smooth the way for the Budweiser owner’s 72 billion-pound ($104 billion) takeover of SABMiller by helping to clear antitrust hurdles in Europe. The acquisition would be Asahi’s biggest, giving the brewer a foothold in Europe, where it currently has no presence, and reducing its dependence on a domestic market hampered by a shrinking population. 

“Asahi is getting more aggressive about overseas acquisitions,” said Masashi Mori, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG in Tokyo. “You can’t be optimistic about the beer market in Japan seeing the trend that people, especially the young generations, are shifting away from beer.”

Asahi can import the Grolsch and Peroni brands into Japan, southeast Asia and Australia, benefiting from the historic brands as consumer spending has been shifting to premium products, Mori said.

AB InBev rose 2.1 percent to 105.40 euros at 3:21 p.m. in Brussels. Asahi fell 8 percent to 3,334 yen. The talks were announced after the close of trading in Tokyo. Nikkei earlier reported that Asahi reached an agreement to buy the brands.

The Japanese company “is paying a very full price” for the assets, Trevor Stirling, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, said by phone.

The purchase would be the largest involving a Japanese-listed beermaker since Kirin Holdings Co.’s $2.5 billion acquisition of Australia’s Lion Nathan Pty in 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Talking Rain

Asahi’s incoming President Akiyoshi Koji said Tuesday that his ambition is to become a global company.

“We’ve been focusing on Asia and Oceania, but we need to expand further,” said Koji, who takes over as Asahi president next month.

Asahi, which also sells spirits and non-alcoholic beverages and owns about a 20 percent stake in China’s Tsingtao Brewery Co., has said it is also considering buying U.S. soft drinks company Talking Rain. That deal could cost about 50 billion yen ($436 million), Nikkei newspaper reported in December.

Other Japanese acquisitions of alcohol companies include Kirin’s purchase last year of a controlling stake in Myanmar’s biggest brewer for $560 million. In 2014, Suntory Holdings Ltd., the closely held whiskey and beer maker, spent $16 billion to buy Beam Inc.

Rothschild is advising Asahi. Lazard and Deutsche Bank AG are acting for AB InBev.

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