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AB InBev sells Australia unit to Asahi for A$16b

Tokyo

ANHEUSER-Busch InBev NV has agreed to sell its Australian operations to Asahi Group Holdings Ltd in a deal valued at A$16 billion (S$15.3 billion), and the Belgian company said it is considering reviving an initial public offering of its Asian subsidiary.

The sale to Tokyo-based Asahi is expected to be concluded by the first quarter of 2020, according to a statement on Friday.

Carlton & United Breweries, whose brands include Foster's and Victoria Bitter, accounts for almost half the beer market in Australia. AB InBev shares rose as much as 4.9 per cent, the steepest gain in almost five months.

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The deal gives Asahi a major entree into Australia, furthering its strategy to build a global presence. It also represents a major shift in AB InBev's position in Asia as the brewer focuses on higher-growth markets.

The company last week pulled a planned IPO of its regional operations that aimed to raise as much as US$9.8 billion. Proceeds were to be used to reduce the company's US$100 billion-plus in borrowings.

AB InBev said on Friday that the IPO of Budweiser Brewing Co APAC would still be strategic, provided it could achieve the right valuation. The proceeds from the Australian sale will go to reduce debt, the brewer added. BLOOMBERG