December 17, 2015 / 6:33 PM / in 2 years

AB InBev seeks quick sales for Peroni and Grolsch: sources

LONDON (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), which has agreed to buy rival brewer SABMiller SAB.L, plans to contact potential bidders for SABMiller’s Grolsch and Peroni beers on Friday and wrap up deals in less than three months, sources close to the process said.

The logo of Anheuser-Busch InBev is pictured outside the brewer's headquarters in Leuven, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

The sales, which could together be worth up to 1.8 billion euros ($2 billion), are aimed at heading off competition regulators’ concerns about AB InBev’s $100 billion-plus takeover of SABMIller, one of the biggest deals in corporate history.

Peroni and Grolsch are small, premium brands. Sources said AB InBev was keen to avoid getting bogged down in any regulatory scrutiny over a European portfolio that already includes its premium brands Corona and Stella Artois.

Peroni and Grolsch together generate earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of 120-150 million euros, and could be valued at a multiple of around 12 times their EBITDA, the sources said.

AB InBev’s financial advisers, Lazard (LAZ.N) and Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE), will give interested parties preliminary information on Friday, according to the sources, who declined to be identified as the matter is private.

Indicative offers will be due in mid-January, with a tight schedule for due diligence aimed at clinching a deal by early March, the sources said.

The deadline favours private equity firms over trade buyers and shows AB InBev is valuing time over money, sources said. Because financial buyers don’t have to assess a deal’s impact on their current operations, they can pull the trigger more quickly, but won’t bid as much since they lack synergies.

“Hitting early timing on this deal is more important than maximizing the value,” one of the sources said.

Belgium-based AB InBev faces paying SABMiller a $3 billion break-up fee if its takeover plan fails.

AB InBev, SABMiller, Lazard and Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

BIDDING FIELD

U.S. buyout funds KKR (KKR.N), Bain Capital and TPG TPG.L have already expressed interest in the brands being sold by AB InBev, which also include craft beer maker Meantime Brewing. So have European peers PAI Partners, BC Partners [BCPRT.UL], Cinven [CINV.UL] and Permira, the sources said.

KKR and AB InBev have a history of profitable dealing. KKR bought Korea’s Oriental Brewery in 2009 for $1.8 billion in the wake of InBev’s purchase of Anheuser-Busch. AB InBev bought the business back in 2014 for $5.8 billion.

When it comes to brewers, Heineken (HEIN.AS) would face antitrust hurdles and Carlsberg (CARLb.CO) lacks the firepower for a big deal, sources said, though one said meetings between the brewers and financial investors pointed to the possibility of a joint bid that would break up the assets.

Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings (2502.T) is one of the few industry buyers that wouldn’t face antitrust scrutiny, the sources said, and pointed to Spain’s Mahou-San Miguel Group as another possible suitor.

Peroni, founded in Vigevano, Italy, in 1846 has been part of SABMiller since 2003. It is mostly sold in Britain and Italy.

Grolsch, known for its flip-top bottle cap, is largely sold in the Netherlands.

Heineken, Carlsberg, KKR, TPG, PAI, BC Partners and Cinven declined to comment. Bain Capital, Permira, Asahi and Mahou-San Miguel were not immediately available.

Additional reporting by Freya Berry in London and Emma Pinedo in Madrid; Editing by Mark Potter

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