June 20, 2017 / 1:50 PM / a month ago

AB InBev kicks off sale of German beers Hasseroeder and Diebels: sources

FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the logo of Anheuser-Busch InBev at the brewer's headquarters in Leuven, Belgium, February 26, 2014.Francois Lenoir/File photo - RTX324FN

LONDON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Anheuser Busch InBev (ABI.BR) has kicked off the process of selling its small German beer brands Hasseroeder and Diebels as it sheds non-core assets following last year's blockbuster takeover of SABMiller, people close to the matter told Reuters.

The world's largest brewer, which owns the Budweiser and Stella Artois brands, has sent out first information packages to prospective bidders and has asked for first bids before the summer break, the people said.

The brands, which are only sold in Germany but have high profit margins, could fetch several hundred million euros, according to the sources, who declined to be identified.

They said AB InBev was working with Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE) on the sale, which would follow its divestiture of SABMiller's European brands, including Peroni, Grolsch and Pilsner Urquell, to Japan's Asahi (2502.T).

An AB InBev spokesman confirmed the company was considering the future of the German brands, saying it continuously reviews its portfolio.

"We are having discussions regarding the future development of the Diebels and Hasseroeder brands along with their two associated breweries with a limited number of investors that would be able to implement a more focused strategy for these brands," the spokesman said in an email. "It is very early days and we have nothing further to share at this stage."

Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

Hasseroeder and Diebels have combined sales of about 140 million euros, the sources said. One source estimated they would fetch around 200 million euros, though another said it could be much more than that, based on profit margins north of 35 percent. That would result in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of roughly 50 million euros.

Asahi paid around 15 times EBITDA for the European brands it bought from AB InBev, though the German brands are not expected to garner that high a multiple given that they are local brands in a tough market, rather than international.

Several sources predicted that the most interested buyers would be those that already have a presence in Germany.

German brewers such as Bitburger or Radeberger are expected to express interest in Hasseroeder, one of the best-selling brands in eastern Germany, as well as for Diebels, which is famous for its top-fermented dark Altbier, drunk mainly in Duesseldorf and some neighboring cities.

The German beer market has grown increasingly competitive in recent years as consumer habits change and consumption slows, putting pressure on sales and profits.

Editing by David Clarke and Susan Thomas

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