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Business deals

Asahi's CUB takeover approved by Australian regulator

Japanese brewer's $11bn acquisition nears completion

CUB owns popular brands in Australia, including Victoria Bitter. (Photo by Fumi Matsumoto)

SYDNEY/TOKYO -- Australia's competition regulator has approved Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings' $11 billion acquisition of Anheuser-Busch InBev's operations in the country.

The deal, struck last year, is part of an overseas expansion drive by Asahi and other Japanese brewers as they try to mitigate expected falling consumption at home.

Asahi agreed in July to buy Australia's Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) from Anheuser-Busch InBev. However Japan's largest brewer faced resistance from Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission, which said an Asahi-CUB combination would control two-thirds of the market for cider in Australia and could lead to higher prices for drinkers.

The watchdog's concerned were eased after Asahi offered to sell parts of CUB's beer and cider operations.

"We determined that Asahi selling the beer and cider brands would be sufficient to address our competition concerns and provide an opportunity for another business to play an important role in a relatively concentrated industry," commission Chairman Rod Sims, said Wednesday.

Asahi will complete the takeover after receiving approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

Asahi controls about 40% of the Japanese market, which shrank for the 15th straight year in 2019.

The deal in Australia comes after the company spent over $10 billion in 2016 and 2017 to buy former SABMiller breweries across Europe from Anheuser-Busch InBev. The Japanese company became owner of the Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell and Italy's Peroni.

Asahi says Australia is a rare developed economy with a growing population, thanks to immigration. Japanese rival Kirin Holdings also sees Australia as its second-largest market after Japan.

 

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