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Anheuser-Busch takes over Harbin Brewery
By Xiao Zhang (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-06-04 09:17

Global beer giant Anheuser-Busch won the takeover battle for Harbin Brewery yesterday, after arch-rival SABMiller withdrew from the bidding for China's fourth-biggest brewer.

"SABMiller will not proceed with its voluntary offer of HK$4.3 (55 US cents) for shares in Harbin and it will accept the offer of HK$5.58 (72 US cents) that Anheuser-Busch has announced it will be making for shares in Harbin," the company announced yesterday.

Anheuser-Busch's offer, made on Tuesday, values Harbin at nearly US$720 million, 30 per cent higher than a bid made by SABMiller last month.

"The Anheuser-Busch offer price more than fully values the potential of the business, even after taking into account the significant synergies uniquely available to us," said SABMiller Chief Executive Officer Graham Mackay.

Industry watchers have said that Harbin would be more valuable to SABMiller, as China Resources Brewery, which is 49 per cent owned by it, and Harbin together control between 60 and 65 per cent of China's northeastern market, which would give it greater pricing power in a sector which has thin profit margins.

But SABMiller has not left the battle empty-handed. Anheuser-Busch will pay it US$211 million for a 29.4 per cent share in Harbin Brewery which it bought last year for around US$87 million.

"It is in the best interests of SABMiller and its shareholders to accept the offer," Mackay said.

Anheuser-Busch increased its shares in Harbin from 29 per cent to 36 per cent on Monday, which made it tougher for SABMiller to make a counter-offer, market analysts said.

Executives from Harbin and Anheuser-Busch did not comment yesterday, while Harbin  said earlier this week that it welcomed Anheuser-Busch's offer and would recommend that shareholders accept it.

Trading in Harbin Brewery shares were suspended on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange yesterday after they had traded as much as 9 per cent above Anheuser-Busch's offer price amid hopes of a bidding war.

The shares hit a record high of HK$6.1 (78 US cents) on Wednesday before closing at HK$5.95 (76 US cents), a gain on the day of 16.67 per cent, on hopes that SABMiller would present a counter-offer.

The two companies and other global brewers such as Heineken and Interbrew have poured huge amounts of money into China in recent years, despite its fragmented and fiercely competitive market.

They are counting on further consolidation and rising incomes from increased prices and profits.

And they see vast potential in a country where the per capita annual beer consumption is just 19 litres, compared with 50 litres in Japan and 84 litres in the United States.

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