Asian brewers, KKR-led investors vying for East Europe beer brands, say sources: Reuters

Asian brewers Asahi Group (2502.T) and China Resources (0291.HK) and a consortium of KKR (KKR.N) and Mid Europa Partners are among several parties preparing bids for a group of beer brands being sold by Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The brands, which include Pilsner Urquell in Czech Republic and Tyskie and Lech in Poland, are worth more than 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion). They were offered for sale earlier this month as part of AB InBev’s $100 billion-plus takeover of SABMiller, which recently closed.

The portfolio has also drawn interest from private equity firm Advent International, which in March raised a $13 billion fund, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other parties looking at the assets but wanting to participate in a joint bid include U.S. buyout firm Bain Capital, Swiss investment firm Jacobs Holdings and London-based private equity house BC Partners, the sources said, as well as local investors.

Polish billionaire Sebastian Kulczyk told Reuters earlier this month that he may look to use some of the proceeds after the sale of his stake in SABMiller to buy the divested assets.

Polish juice maker Maspex has also expressed interest in the brands and is seeking other investors to contribute to a bid, the sources said.
AB InBev recently invited a host of parties to the auction, led by Lazard, the sources said, adding that the world’s largest brewer wants indicative offers in early November, hoping to nail down a buyer by Christmas, the sources said.

They described Asahi as the most motivated buyer, since it wants to build on its purchase of Peroni and Grolsch, SABMiller’s former brands in western Europe.

But state-owned China Resources, which bought out the Chinese joint venture with SABMiller, is also keen to submit a competitive bid, they said, and is holding talks with potential partners including Chinese investment firms.

The portfolio, which also includes beer brands in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, may fit into the new strategy of Hungarian oil and gas group Mol MOLB.BU, which said last week that it wanted to diversify into new business areas including consumer goods, three of the sources said.

Officials for AB InBev, KKR, Advent, Bain, BC Partners and Mol declined to comment. Asahi, China Resources, Mid Europa and Jacobs could not be reached outside of normal working hours.