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Thursday, 31 May, 2001, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
SAB eyes Bass Brewers
SAB beer bottles
SAB would like to make a bid for Bass again
South African Breweries (SAB) is still very interested in buying Bass Brewers, it said on Thursday as it reported a 7% fall in full-year profit.

The world's fifth largest beer maker is keen on Bass, which Interbrew may yet have to sell, despite having just paid $79.3m for three breweries in China.

"We are looking at it [Bass] very closely in terms of what may be for sale and how much it will cost. We have great interest in the situation," said chief executive Graham Mackay.

The company, which brews two-thirds of Africa's beer and earns half its profits in South African rand, reported pre-tax profit for the year ending 31 March of $646m (456m), broadly in line with analyst expectations.

Currency risks

The results suffered from a 19% devaluation of the rand against the dollar. In the South African currency earnings would have been up 15%, said Mr Mackay.

The South African beer market, where SAB has a 98% share, showed a 4.9% fall in annual volumes but Mr Mackay said he expected growth to resume soon.

The group, which operates largely in Africa, China and Eastern Europe, had been expected to expand in western Europe to gain some "hard currency" exposure, but the pace of industry consolidation has been slower than it hoped.

SAB moved its main stock market listing to London from Johannesburg in March 1999 to raise cash for future growth and acquisitions.

Bass bid

It was regarded as the favourite to buy Bass last year but was beaten by Interbrew's 2.3bn bid in August.

The British government's order to the Belgian brewer to sell Bass because of competition concerns rekindled SAB's hopes.

But analysts say it could take a while for SAB to get its hands on Bass. Interbrew recently won a High Court appeal which means the government will have to reconsider its ruling.

The only significant European acquisition SAB has made is its $629m purchase in October 1999 of leading Czech brewers, Pilsner Urquell and Radegast.

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See also:

23 May 01 | Business
Court joy for Interbrew
14 Mar 01 | Business
Interbrew losses after Bass charge
21 Feb 01 | Business
Belgium to sue UK over spilt beer
03 Jan 01 | Business
Bass takeover blocked
03 Jan 01 | Business
What now for Bass beer brands?
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