Canada's Saputo buys Kirin's cheese business in Australia for $179 mln - Nikkei

SYDNEY, April 26 (Reuters) - Canada’s Saputo Inc. has purchased the Australian cheese business of Japan’s Kirin Holdings for about 20 billion yen ($179 million), the Nikkei reported on Friday, citing anonymous sources.

Japanese beer and beverage maker Kirin Holdings said last September it was reviewing its Australia-based subsidiary Lion Pty Ltd’s dairy and drinks business, and was considering a possible sale.

The Japanese newspaper said the brewer had yet to find a buyer for the unprofitable unit, which has been facing rising juice prices, tougher competition and a weakening currency.

Media representatives for Kirin and Saputo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kirin had previously said the company would not agree to divest the unit, which it acquired in 2007, at any price simply to achieve a sale. []

The Japanese brewer has been restructuring and reviewing its business portfolio, which spans alcohol, beverages, food and drugs at home and overseas. Last year, it sold its money-losing Brazilian beer business - bought for $3.9 billion in 2011 - to Heineken <NV HEIN.AS> for $1.09 billion.

$1 = 111.6700 yen Reporting by Paulina Duran; editing by Richard Pullin