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PRAGUE/LONDON (Reuters) - Japanese brewer Asahi (2502.T) and a consortium led by Swiss investment firm Jacobs Holding have made it onto the shortlist of bidders for SABMiller's eastern European beer brands, sources familiar with the matter said.
Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona beers, agreed to sell the brands, which include the Czech market leader Pilsner Urquell, to help get clearance from competition regulators for its $100 billion takeover of SABMiller.
The brands up for sale, which also include the Polish beers Tyskie and Lech, Hungarian beer Dreher, Romania's Ursus and Topvar in Slovakia, are estimated to be worth more than 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion).
Asahi has already bought SABMiller's Western European brands Peroni and Grolsch and could be interested in expanding its European presence. A source close to one of the other bidders said Asahi continued to be viewed as the favorite given its existing global distribution channels.
"There is a chance (for us) but the favorites are elsewhere," the source said.
Another bidder making it onto the shortlist is the Jacobs-led group, which includes Czech family office R2G and Canadian pension funds manager PSP Investments, said Jakub Dyba, an executive at R2G.
R2G manages the assets of former CGS tyre firm founder Oldrich Slemr and the founders of software firm Avast.
Three sources familiar with the matter said PPF, the investment firm of Czech business tycoon Petr Kellner, also made it to the shortlist. Two of the sources said Asahi was included while one of them said a joint bid by private equity firms Bain Capital and Advent was also through to the next round.
Officials at PPF, Jacobs, Asahi and Advent declined to comment. Bain was not immediately available to comment.
AB InBev received at least six indicative offers last week. Binding offers are due next month.
China Resources also made an initial bid, as did KKR (KKR.N), jointly with specialist regional private equity firm Mid Europa Partners.
Sources familiar with the sale process say the main attraction for all bidders is Pilsner Urquell, which has export potential as well as a 40 percent share of the Czech market, the biggest beer market in the world in terms of per-capita consumption.
Additional reporting by Jason Hovet in Prague and Ritsuko Shimizu in Tokyo; Editing by Greg Mahlich