By Dow Jones Business News,
January 17, 2014, 06:33:00 PM EDT
By Dana Cimilluca and Mike Esterl
Beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev SA is nearing a deal to reacquire leading South Korean brewer Oriental Brewery
from KKR & Co. and Affinity Equity Partners for around $4.5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.
Talks are in the advanced stages and an agreement is expected in the coming days, although there is a small chance
the timing of any deal could slip, these people added Friday. Oriental Brewery's brands include Cass, OB Golden Lager
Belgium's AB InBev sold Oriental Brewery in 2009 to KKR for $1.8 billion to help pay down debt following its $52
billion acquisition of Anheuser-Busch in 2008. It retained the right to reacquire Oriental Brewery within five years at
"predetermined financial terms," according to a regulatory filing at the time. The right expires July 24.
A spokeswoman at AB InBev, the world's largest brewer by revenue, declined to comment. Reuters reported the
advanced talks earlier Friday.
The potential acquisition comes as AB InBev and other major brewers struggle to grow amid recent slowdowns in major
markets in Europe, North America and South America. AB InBev's volumes dropped 2.1% in the first nine months of 2013
from the year-earlier period, although revenue rose 2.8% to $31.48 billion as it raised prices and steered consumers to
more expensive brands.
The $4.5 billion price tag reflects a multiple of roughly 11 times Oriental Brewery's earnings before interest,
taxes, depreciation and amortization. That is lower than recent multiples in beer industry acquisitions, which have
become more costly since 2009 as financial markets improved and takeover targets narrowed.
If the deal goes through, Oriental Brewery would represent AB InBev's largest acquisition since its $20 billion
takeover of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo SAB last year. It would also be the biggest Asian beer deal since the
Netherlands' Heineken NV acquired the rest of Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd., maker of Tiger beer, for $6.4 billion in late
The global beer industry has undergone rapid consolidation over the past decade and the world's four largest
brewers now control about half of production. AB InBev boasts a market share of roughly 20% and more than 200 beer
brands, including Budweiser, Corona and Beck's.
But Asia's beer industry is still relatively fragmented and consumption is growing faster than in more mature
markets, making it an attractive target. AB InBev only has a small foothold in Asia outside of China, where it has spent
heavily through acquisitions and brewery investments to become the country's third-largest brewer by revenue.
Oriental Brewery and rival Hite Brewery controlled 51% and 47% of South Korea's beer volume in 2012, respectively,
according to Bernstein Research, which estimates Oriental Brewery had an outsize 82% share of industry profits.
South Korea accounted for 1% of Asia-Pacific's population but 3% of the region's beer volume, 4% of revenue and 5%
of earnings before interest and taxes in 2012, according to Bernstein.
There also has been speculation for years that AB InBev will eventually try to snap up U.K.-based SABMiller PLC,
the world's No. 2 brewer by revenue. AB InBev has declined to comment on such speculation.
Alan Clark, SABMiller's chief executive, recently said his company would like to bulk up through more acquisitions,
particularly in Asia.
SABMiller has a 49% stake in the joint venture that owns Snow, China's leading beer brand, and spent $10.2 billion
in 2011 to acquire Foster's Group in Australia.
Mike Spector contributed to this article.
Write to Dana Cimilluca at email@example.com and Mike Esterl at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
Copyright (c) 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.