Oriental Brewery Draws Three PE Bidders

SEOUL (Reuters) – Three private equity houses — Affinity Equity Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and MBK Partners — have made final offers for South Korea’s Oriental Brewery (OB), an official of the beer maker said on Tuesday.

Anheuser-Busch InBev (INTB.BR), the world’s largest brewer and the owner of OB, had accepted the offers on Friday, which it has valued at more than $2 billion, as part of an effort to sell non-core assets and to repay debt.

“It was only the three private equity funds that participated in the sale,” the official with direct knowledge of the sale process told Reuters by telephone.

InBev is aiming to close the deal by later this week, he said, asking not to be named because he was not authorised to speak to media on that matter.

The three private equity firms are being advised by Goldman Sachs (GS.N), Citigroup (C.N) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N), and are scurrying to secure financial backers from global and South Korean banks, Reuters Basis Point reported.

South Korean retail giant Lotte Group confirmed on Monday it had not handed in a final offer for OB because of pricing and other reasons.

Lotte had been seen as a front-runner to buy OB, given its financial muscle and determination to start a beer business, but its original and revised bids were rejected by InBev as too low, sources had said.

But two private equity managers in Seoul said Lotte may come back with another offer, adding that the retail group’s absence from making a final offer was seen as a strategic move.

Lotte officials who had prepared for the acquisition could not immediately be reached for comment.

Separately, OB’s unionised workers, representing 80 percent of the total, entered its second day of a strike on Tuesday, demanding a 15 percent hike in wages.

They also urged InBev to give back 10 percent of any proceeds from the sale for investment and dividends, which InBev said should be negotiated with OB’s new buyer.

(Reporting by Kim Yeon-hee; Editing by Ken Wills)