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Asahi to pay $7.8 bln for 5 AB InBev beer brands

MarketWatch logo MarketWatch 12/13/2016 Megumi Fujikawa
Asahi© Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg Asahi

Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. said Tuesday it agreed to acquire beer brands in Eastern Europe from Anheuser-Busch InBev NV for EUR7.3 billion ($7.8 billion).

The deal gives bigger international heft to Japan's Asahi, which is one of the top beer makers in its home market but only a small player globally. Asahi said it planned to acquire brands in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania.

AB InBev is selling the assets as part of its pact with European regulators to win approval for its acquisition of SABMiller. The merger of the two beer giants was completed in October.

Asahi had joined private-equity firms and others in bidding for the assets.

Asahi's shares closed 4.6% lower in Tokyo trading Tuesday after the Nikkei newspaper reported on the likely deal an hour before the market closed.

Asahi previously bought some European beer brands, including Peroni and Grolsch, for EUR2.55 billion from SABMiller, in another divestiture made to get regulatory clearance.

Japanese beer makers have been actively looking overseas for growth because the domestic market is shrinking, owing to a population that is both getting smaller and growing older. For now, they rank far behind global giants including AB InBev. Asahi had a 1.2% global share of the beer market in 2015, according to Euromonitor International.

Shipments in Japan of beer and related brews including low-malt beer came to about 425 million cases in 2015, compared with a peak of 573 million cases in 1994, according to the Brewers Association of Japan. Asahi has fallen further this year with sales of its flagship Super Dry down nearly 4% in the first 11 months of this year.

Kirin Holdings Co. bought a 55% stake in Myanmar Brewery for $560 million last year.

Write to Megumi Fujikawa at megumi.fujikawa@wsj.com

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