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Business deals

Asahi to buy AB InBev's Australian unit in $11.3bn deal

Japanese brewer hopes Victoria Bitter maker Carlton offsets shrinking home market

Asahi produces Super Dry, while Carlton is best known as the brewer of Victoria Bitter. (Source photos by Jiji)

TOKYO -- Asahi Group Holdings, Japan's biggest brewer, has struck a deal to acquire leading Australian player Carlton & United Breweries.

Carlton is an affiliate of the world's largest brewer, Belgian multinational Anheuser-Busch InBev, which announced that it had agreed to divest the unit to Asahi. The deal is valued at 16 billion Australian dollars ($11.3 billion).

Carlton controls about 50% of the Australian market and counts Victoria Bitter among its well-known brands. Asahi aims to expand sales of premium beers -- a rare bright spot in a shrinking home market -- and better tap the global market.

The Japanese brewer has started production of its core product, Asahi Super Dry, in Australia, where the population is growing thanks to immigration. The figure is forecast to surge from 25 million now to around 30 million to 40 million by 2060.

The Carlton deal promises to help Asahi step up production there and secure more sales channels.

This is not Asahi's first acquisition of an InBev business as part of its overseas expansion drive. The Japanese company invested a total of $11.1 billion from 2016 to 2017 to acquire European breweries from the Belgian group, including Italy's Peroni and the Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell.

Back home, Asahi Breweries faces slowing sales of Super Dry and a bruising battle with rival Kirin Holdings for domestic market share. The overall quantity of beer shipped by Japanese brewers has decreased for 14 straight years through 2018.

Meanwhile, InBev called off its Budweiser unit's planned initial public offering in Hong Kong this month due to market conditions. The giant was aiming to procure $9.8 billion to reduce debt from past mergers and acquisitions and provide cash to pursue new M&A opportunities.

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