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Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 15:42 GMT
Interbrew eyes global expansion
Assorted beer types
"The world's local brewer" grew fast by buying brewers
Belgium's Interbrew is mulling a bid for South African Breweries in order to create the world's second largest brewer, reports suggest.

We are intent on pursuing our own strategy, we know where we're going and we have a very clear vision

Interbrew spokesman
Interbrew - which makes Stella Artois beer and has recently acquired the Beck's brand - has been on an aggressive expansion spree over the past few years.

The two brewers are playing down talk of a merger, even as many analysts say the logic for such a deal is compelling.

"We do see this as speculation," SAB spokesman Nick Chaloner told the BBC's World Business Report. "I wonder if a Belgian brewer really is the right fit for a global business like SAB, with our roots in South Africa."

Interbrew's chief executive tried to dampen expectations of a deal on Wednesday, but confirmed press reports that it was reviewing a possible merger with SAB.

Its latest acquisition could create a wave of rival mergers, according to industry sources.

Playing it down

The Financial Times newspaper said that it had seen documents indicating that a takeover offer could be made on 3 December.

But Interbrew chief executive, Hugo Powell, denied that negotiations have reached the advanced stages of preparing an offer.

"Interbrew confirms that the analysis, which is at a very preliminary stage, may or may not lead to an offer for SAB at some time in the future but can confirm that no approach has been made on the matter," Interbrew said in a statement.

An Interbrew spokesman praised the high-growth strategy of the South African brewer, but then said that Interbrew had its own clear vision.

"I think SAB has a very clear strategy moving into the high growth developing markets around the world.

"But we are intent on pusuing out own strategy, we know where we're going and we have a very clear vision."

Bass trouble

South African Breweries is listed in London and has a market capitalisation of 3.5bn.

It is due to report its half year results on Thursday and is expected to report a pre-tax profit of $299m, down 3.5% from the previous year.

Together you would have a business that would be extremely cash generative in the short term

Stewart Price
WestLB Panmure
Interbrew already has some experience of emerging market operations, and has a successful Chinese operation.

The Belgian brewer has been involved in a number of high profile acquisitions, including the recent purchase of Germany's Beck's brand.

But it ran into regulatory difficulties and a long legal battle over its purchase of the UK's Bass Breweries last year.

Share boost

WestLB Panmure's brewing analyst Stewart Price said there is compelling strategic logic for the deal, which signals the second round of consolidation in the global brewing industry.

"Interbrew has very strong branding skills and SAB skills are very much to do with cost reduction and being the lowest cost producer. Together you would have a business that would be extremely cash generative in the short term," he told the BBC's World Business Report.

If a bid for South African Breweries is forthcoming and successful, it would be second only to the world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch.

Shares in SAB and soared 8.7% on the news hitting 481.5p on the London stock exchange.

SAB's Nick Chaloner
"We do see this as speculation"
Stewart Priice, WestLB Panmure
"There is a compelling strategic logic"
See also:

18 Sep 01 | Business
Interbrew ordered to sell Carling
05 Sep 01 | Business
Bass Interbrew decision expected
06 Aug 01 | Business
Interbrew buys Beck's
23 May 01 | Business
Court joy for Interbrew
05 Jan 01 | Business
Belgians bitter at Interbrew snub
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