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Japan’s Asahi Frontrunner for PE-Backed StarBev

Japanese brewer Asahi is emerging as a frontrunner to buy eastern European brewer StarBev, a sale expected to fetch up to $3 billion for private equity owner CVC Capital Partners, Reuters wrote Friday. CVC bought StarBev in December 2009.

(Reuters) – Japanese brewer Asahi is emerging as a frontrunner to buy eastern European brewer StarBev, a sale expected to fetch up to $3 billion for private equity owner CVC Capital Partners, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The private equity group is gearing up to sell the business in around two weeks after receiving several approaches from a number of global brewing groups, the people said. CVC bought StarBev in December 2009.

“Asahi have put a big price on the table, and we would expect a resolution in around two weeks time,” said one person involved in the sale process.

All parties either declined to comment or could not immediately be reached for comment.

CVC bought the business from the world’s biggest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, and although AB-InBev has the “right of first offer”, bankers and analysts both believe it will not be tempted while it has eyes on bigger beer markets.

 

The most interest in StarBev so far has come from Asahi, Carlsberg, SABMiller and AB-InBev, while others such as Heineken and Molson Coors were less enthusiastic, the people said.

 

“We would expect a result for someone in the next two weeks, and all the talk is of Asahi,” one of the people said.

 

Although the business is in countries like the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary and has been hit by recent weakness in eastern European economies, it is still seen as a long-term growth story in a rapidly consolidating global brewing world.

 

Other Japanese drinks groups Kirin and privately owned Suntory have shown less interest. Kirin bought Brazil’s second biggest brewer Schincariol for nearly $4 billion last year, while Suntory is not keen on buying into European beer, the people added. (By Victoria Howley and David Jones)