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Drinks

SABMiller Eastern Europe Assets Said To Interest Advent, KKR

SABMiller Plc’s central and eastern European beer assets including Pilsner Urquell have drawn interest from private equity firms Advent International Corp ., KKR & Co. and BC Partners Holdings Ltd., people with knowledge of the matter said.

Those firms are exploring whether to make an offer for the assets, which may be valued at about $5 billion, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. PAI Partners SAS, Bain Capital and Swiss investment group Jacobs Holding AG also are likely to take a look at those brands, the people said, which Anheuser-Busch InBev NV is offering in an effort to get clearance for its takeover of SABMiller.

Most private equity firms would probably need to team up because of the size of the assets, and many European brewers might be dissuaded from bidding because of regulatory hurdles, the people said. No final decisions have been made, they said.

AB InBev submitted last month an updated proposal to the European Commission that included a commitment to sell SABMiller’s operations in Hungary, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.

Spokesmen for AB InBev, SAB, Advent, Bain, BC Partners and KKR declined to comment. Representatives for PAI and Jacobs didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Polish Market

While the sale may help the world’s largest brewer secure regulatory approval for the $106 billion takeover of rival SABMiller, it also would allow AB InBev to cut back in a difficult market. SABMiller’s lager volume in eastern Europe has been weighed down by discounting and competition in Poland, where it’s the largest brewer with a 35 percent market share.

AB InBev is also likely to reach out to Asian beer makers to gauge potential interest, the people familiar with the matter said. AB InBev agreed in April to sell SABMiller’s Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime brands in Europe to Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. to address antitrust concerns.

Molson Coors may also be interested in expanding its market share in the region after acquiring StarBev for $3.5 billion in 2012, Berenberg analyst Javier Gonzalez Lastra said last month.

AB InBev’s takeover of SABMiller would face a small but material risk should British voters choose to leave the European Union in a referendum next month. A leave vote on June 23 could trigger a sharp fall in sterling, eliminate the implied bid premium in the deal, and potentially even lead to its collapse, according to an analyst note from Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd.

News by Bloomberg, edited by ESM. To subscribe to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine, click here.

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