Japanese brewer Asahi's shareholders to sell $1.3b stake in latest unwinding

Japanese brewer Asahi's shareholders to sell $1.3b stake in latest unwinding

The Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in Japan.

Shareholders in Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings will sell some $1.3 billion worth of stock in the brewer to overseas investors, the company said on Thursday, in the latest unwinding of cross-shareholdings among big Japanese firms.

Eight Japanese banks, including Nomura Holdings and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group’s main lending unit, plan to sell a total of 33.5 million shares in the maker of “Asahi Super Dry” beer through a secondary offering in overseas markets, the brewer said.

That represents around 6.6% of Asahi’s outstanding shares, according to LSEG, worth 194.3 billion yen ($1.3 billion) as of Thursday’s close.

The sale comes amid a years-long trend of Japanese companies unwinding cross-shareholding, a trend that has gained fresh momentum thanks to a push by the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) for improved use of capital.

The secondary offering – where shares will be offered to institutional investors overseas rather than sold on the open market – is aimed at mitigating the potential impact on the share price, Asahi said.

The price will be determined in a bookbuilding process and will based on the closing price in Tokyo on a date between Nov.28 and Dec. 1, with a discount of up to 10%, depending on market conditions, it said.

Asahi also said it was also looking to “expand its foundation of shareholders” and expected the sale to contribute to increased liquidity in its shares and the “revitalisation” of capital markets.

Japanese companies, particularly banks, have traditionally taken stakes in their business partners to cement business ties. Critics say the practice entrenches management and undermines governance because such shareholders are unlikely to pressure their partners for higher returns.

The TSE’s push has included a call for companies to unwind cross-shareholdings, increase dividends and buybacks and has helped send the benchmark Nikkei up almost 30% this year, to a level last seen in 1990.


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