Buyout funds eye alliances for SABMiller's Pilsner, east Europe brands
By Pamela Barbaglia and Jan Lopatka
LONDON/PRAGUE (Reuters) - U.S. and European buyout funds are gearing up for SABMiller's SAB.L sale of its central and eastern European beer brands, with some seeking to join forces to snap up assets worth up to 7 billion euros ($7.7 billion), sources familiar with the matter said.
The brewing businesses, based in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, are for sale as part of Anheuser-Busch InBev's (ABI.BR: Quote) $100 billion-plus takeover of SABMiller, which has come under a shadow of doubt as activist shareholders push for a higher price in light of weak sterling.
AB InBev, maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois, has offered to sell SAB's entire European business to ease antitrust approval for the takeover, which is among the largest in corporate history.
The sale, led by Lazard on behalf of AB InBev, is expected to kick off toward the end of September, the sources said, cautioning that AB InBev wants to finalize the SABMiller takeover before starting negotiations for the brands, which include Czech market leader Pilsner Urquell.
AB InBev is expected to consider bids for all of SAB's central and eastern European portfolio and avoid a break-up of the assets which would result in a piecemeal sale.
European private equity fund Advent has been conducting preliminary work for several months and has emerged as one of the most determined suitors for the brands, the sources said.
Advent, which raised $13 billion for its latest fund in March, has the financial muscle to bid alone, the sources said, pointing to a previous joint investment in Romanian brewer Miercurea Ciuc in 1996.
Others need to team up in bidding consortia to match AB InBev's price expectations, they said. Continued...