Asahi Soars on Plan to Buy Back Up to 4.3% of Stock: Tokyo Mover

Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., Japan’s biggest beermaker, climbed the most in almost 11 years in Tokyo trading after announcing a plan to spend as much as 30 billion yen ($322 million) to buy back shares.

The brewer surged as much as 9.2 percent, headed for the biggest gain since August 1992, to 2,192 yen, before trading at 2,136 yen as of 10:32 a.m. The company will buy back as much as 4.3 percent of its shares from today until Aug. 13, it said yesterday in a statement.

The maker of “Super Dry” beer aims to more than double its total return ratio, or buybacks and dividends divided by net income, to 50 percent from about 23 percent in 2012, it said yesterday in a statement. Sales rose 8 percent in 2012 from the previous year to 1.579 trillion yen, beating its projection for 1.569 trillion yen.

“The total return ratio target was positively received in the market,” said Takayuki Hayano, an analyst at Barclays Securities Japan Ltd. “Thirty billion yen has a big impact.” He rates the shares “overweight.”

Net income will probably rise to 65.5 billion yen this year, compared with the 68.1 billion yen average of 15 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales are expected to jump 9 percent to 1.720 trillion yen this year, according to the statement yesterday. The brewer reported net income of 57.2 billion yen last year, missing its own projection for 65 billion yen.

Independent Lawsuit

Separately, Asahi sued two buyout firms that sold it a New Zealand liquor distributor for NZ$1.53 billion ($1.3 billion), claiming they gave false information about the company’s finances.

Pacific Equity Partners Pty. and Unitas Capital Pte. engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by inflating Independent Liquor’s earnings ahead of the 2011 takeover, Asahi said. The lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in Melbourne, according to the judicial website. A copy of the originating application wasn’t immediately available from the court.

Amanda Lee, an external spokeswoman for Pacific Equity at FTI Consulting Inc., declined to comment on the claims. A phone message left outside of regular office hours at the Hong Kong office of Unitas wasn’t immediately returned.

Pacific Equity and Unitas each held 43.9 percent stakes in Independent, which they’d bought for NZ$1.2 billion in 2006, according to a statement issued at the time of the acquisition.

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