Asahi Breweries: No interest in Foster's at this time

TOKYO Tue Feb 8, 2011 4:21am EST

TOKYO (Reuters) - Asahi Breweries has no interest in buying any part of Australia's Foster's Group at this time, the firm's head said on Wednesday, after market players had said the Japanese company was eyeing a purchase of its beer unit.

"The price is expensive and recently (Australia's) market is looking tough," President Naoki Izumiya said after a press briefing in Tokyo.

Foster's gave up on its twin-track beer and wine strategy last May after massive write-offs on its ailing wine business and will split the two this year.

This has sparked talk the beer operation might be snapped up post-demerger for a price of over $10 billion, and beverage firms such as SABMiller and Asahi have been mentioned as suitors.

Japanese brewers have bought a slew of company stakes in recent years in a bid to diversify products and geographic reach after their home market shrank by over 15 percent in terms of shipment volumes in the past decade amid changing demographics.

Asahi, which until recently had little incentive to look beyond Japan thanks to its top-selling "Super Dry" beer, has, like rival Kirin Holdings, been aggressively looking to expand abroad, including through acquisitions.

In August, Izumiya told Reuters in an interview the company was considering expanding ties with South Korea's top beverage firm Lotte Group and that it wanted to lift its stake in China's Tsingtao Brewery.

(Reporting by James Topham; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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