SAB Miller tipped for Fosterís buyout

03 September, 2010

SAB Miller is rumoured to be considering a £7 billion bid for the beer operations of the Fosterís Group.

The move would see it take control of the Fosterís lager brand plus premium beers including VB.

Fosterís Group chief executive Ian Johnston spelt out in May the companyís intentions to split its wine and beer businesses, stoking speculation that the beer arm could be sold, but Johnston said the demerger was unlikely to be completed until the middle of next year.

Any suitor for the beer business may wait until after the break-up to provide clarity to the acquisition.

Diageo revealed last week that it has a £2 billion pot of cash which could be called on for acquisitions, but spirits Ė including a long-expected approach for LVMH Ė would fit the bill more for the Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker firm.

It has, however, indicated a desire to build a world beer portfolio in the UK Ė after the launch of Windhoek in April Ė and the Fosterís beer business would give it niche brands such as Crown, as well as VB and Fosterís.

The purchase of Fosterís would give SAB Miller extra clout in Asia and make it a stronger contender to world market leader A-B Inbev.

Fosterís lager is handled by Heineken UK in the British market and an acquisition by a rival brewer could see it move in-house, though it would by no means be certain if the purchaser was SAB Miller.

The company bought Grolsch in 2007, but the brandís UK distribution has so far remained unchanged.

The Fosterís Group has reported a loss of AU$464 million loss in the year to June 30, after write-downs in its wine business of AU$1.3 billion.

The result follows a net profit of AU$438.3 million a year ago.

Fosterís posted a net profit of AU$698.3 million after the write-downs though net sales were lower, at AU$4.3 billion, against AU$4.5 billion a year ago.

Chief executive Ian Johnston confirmed the company was still aiming to demerge its wine and beer businesses by the first half of 2011.

He added: ďTodayís financial results describe a business in which the fundamentals are firmly heading in the right direction, but one that continues to be impacted by subdued consumer confidence in some key markets, by Australian and New Zealand wine oversupply and by unfavourable currency movements.Ē?246??

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