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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 June, 2004, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Bud firm wins Chinese brewery bid
Cans of Harbin Brewery's beer on sale in Hong Kong
Foreign firms are fighting to buy a Chinese one for the first time
Anheuser-Busch, the firm behind Budweiser beer, has won a bidding war for Chinese brewer Harbin.

The company's offer values Harbin at about $720m.

SABMiller withdrew its own, lower bid on Thursday and agreed to sell its own 29% holding in Harbin for a profit of about $124m.

The culmination of the month-long fight for China's number four brewer marks the first takeover fight between two foreign firms for a Chinese company.

Anheuser-Busch's offer, SABMiller said in a statement, "more than fully values the potential of the company".


The news that SABMiller, the global number two in the brewing business, had withdrawn followed the suspension of Harbin's shares in Hong Kong earlier in the day.

The suspension immediately triggered speculation that SABMiller would throw in the towel, since its own offer of HK$4.30 a share was almost 30% lower than the HK$5.58 a share bid Anheuser-Busch put on the table.

Analysts said that could be a generous price to pay, valuing Harbin at 35 times its forecast 2004 profits.

The speculation sent SABMiller shares rising in London, up 3% to 671.5 pence by 1130 GMT.

Anheuser-Busch, the world's biggest brewer, had made the decisive move earlier in the week when it upped its stake in Harbin by 6% to 36% at a cost of HK$388m ($50m; 27m).

Soaring market

Shares in Harbin have risen nearly 60% in the month since the rival overseas giants began their bidding war.

Anheuser-Busch bought a 29% stake in Harbin at the start of May for HK$3.70 a share.

SABMiller, which already owned a 29% stake bought in 2003, then weighed in with a hostile takeover offer

China's beer market is growing by up to 8% a year and consumption per head remains low by international standards, triggering a flood of investment from big international brewers.

Anheuser-Busch owns 10% of market leader, Tsingtao, while SABMiller has a 49% stake in the Chinese number two brewer, China Resources Breweries.

Heineken, Carlsberg Breweries and Scottish and Newcastle have all made recent investments in Chinese beer makers.

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