AB InBev to sell Aussie brewer CUB to Asahi for $11.3 bn US

InBev's deal to sell Australia's largest brewer Carlton & United Breweries to Japan's Asahi is expected to finalised early next year

The world's leading brewer, debt-laden AB InBev, said Friday it is selling off its Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) unit in Australia for 16 billion Australian dollars (US$11.3 billion) following a failed IPO.

It was selling CUB to Japanese group Asahi Holdings in a deal that would also see Asahi acquire Australian distribution rights for AB Inbev brands, a statement said.

AB InBev, a Belgian-Brazilian behemoth that owns brands such as Stella Artois and Budweiser, is saddled with more than $100 billion in debt, part of it stemming from its 2016 acquisition of SABMiller.

On Monday, InBev surprised markets by suspending what would have been the world's biggest stock sale this year. It had planned to list its Asia-Pacific subsidiary, Budweiser Brewing Company APAC, on the Hong Kong stockmarket and raise around $10 billion.

It called the IPO off, citing "several factors" left unspecified. Some reports suggested investors thought the asking price overvalued.

InBev said the CUB sale would help trim its debt load.

"Substantially all of the proceeds from the divestiture of the Australian business will be used by the company to pay down debt," the company said in its statement.

The transaction with Asahi is expected to be finalised early next year.

Asahi has been buying beer brands on several continents, one of the latest being the British company Fuller's in January which it added to other European brands such as Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell.

The AB InBev statement quoted chief executive Carlos Brito as saying that “we continue to see great potential for our business in APAC (Asia Pacific) and the region remains a growth engine within our company".

The brewer has seen sales slip in other major markets.

It reported a drop of 14.7 percent in 2018 profit at $6.8 billion but has forecast strong growth this year.