Asahi Group Holdings Ltd will not bid for the Eastern European assets that SABMiller PLC is selling to appease anti-monopoly regulators, the president of Japan’s biggest brewer said on Tuesday.
“We have been studying them but we won’t raise our hand to buy,” Akiyoshi Koji, who became president in March, said in an interview.
Instead, he said Asahi will focus on raising sales of the Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime beer brands that it agreed to buy from SABMiller last month for 2.55 billion euros ($2.89 billion).
Asahi is betting on those brands to significantly broaden its presence in Europe. Previously,Asahi‘s overseas expansion focused on Asia and Oceania, such as the purchase of New Zealand’s Independent Liquor in 2011 for NZ$1.5 billion ($1.02 billion), and 19.9 percent of China’s Tsingtao Brewery in 2009.
Koji also said Asahi plans to eventually sell its Super Dry beer in Europe through its SABMiller acquisition. Super Dry is Asahi‘s and Japan’s biggest-selling beer.
The acquisition is conditional on Anheuser Busch InBev SA gaining the approval of anti-monopoly regulators to take over SABMiller.
To gain approval, SABMiller is selling its businesses in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, as well as brands including those destined for Asahi.
While Asahi will not buy those businesses, it will still seek acquisition opportunities worldwide, Koji said. The brewer can take on additional debt of up to 300 billion yen ($2.74 billion) without hurting its credit rating, he said.
“Also due to the negative interest rate policy (of Japan’s central bank), we can issue bonds with low interest,” he said.
Asahi is unlikely to make major bets on emerging economies such as South America though they have growth potential, Koji said.
“We are looking at the United States and Europe, where we may not see strong growth but we can count on steady growth,” he said
Koji said he did not feel threatened by AB InBev-SABMiller, which will command one-third of the world’s beer market, as Asahi wants to focus on premium brands.
Rather, he said he was concerned about AB InBev-SABMiller’s purchasing power of main beer ingredients barley and hops.
“We need to make sure we have sustainable access to ingredients,” he said.