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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK
Brewing giant gets taste for Italy
Graham Mackay - SABMiller chief executive
Graham Mackay toasts SABMiller's latest purchase
SABMiller, the world's second largest brewer by volume, has shown it has not lost its taste for expansion by buying a majority stake in the Italian brewer Birra Peroni.

The move will add the Italian beers Peroni and Nastro Azzurro to its stable of brands, which already include Pilsner Urquell, Miller Lite and Castle.

The deal with Birra Peroni is SABMiller's first major move into Western Europe.

SABMiller said it would take a stake of between 51-60% in the Italian firm in a deal worth up to 246m euros (176.3m; $283m).

Growth market

It also has an option to increase its stake in the company to between 80-100% over the next three to five years.

The brewer beat rivals Interbrew and Carlsberg in the battle to buy Peroni, SABMiller, finance director Malcolm Wyman told BBC World Service Radio.

Some of the other final bidders had offered to pay more for the Italian firm, he said, though he declined give further details.

Mr Wyman said he believed SABMiller had won because its offer best met the needs of the sellers by combining an upfront payment with ongoing participation in the business and future profit-sharing.

SABMiller was formed last year when South African Breweries bought US brewer Miller for $5.6bn.

The company employs 64,000 people in 24 countries across the world.

"This transaction represents a further step in developing SABMiller's strategy," said SABMiller's chief executive Graham Mackay.

Fresh opportunities

"Italy is one of only two Western European markets to be experiencing real volume growth, at some 3%, well ahead of the regional trend."

Mr Mackey added that he thought the two firms would make a good fit.

"The acquisition creates cross selling opportunities for us and our new partners.

"Italy's strong and growing import market offers potential for Pilsner Urquell and other SABMiller brands, while Birra Peroni brands will enhance our global portfolio."

The group added that it expected to be able to make cost savings of at least 9m euros by the end of the third financial year.

On the London Stock Exchange, shares in SABMiller closed down 16.5p, or 3.6%, at 443p as analysts worried that the company had paid too much.

Malcolm Wyman, SABMiller Finance Director
"All of the other companies were very keen to acquire control of Peroni..."

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