China Resources says overseas deal possible, no interest in Foster's

HONG KONG, June 22 Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:03pm EDT

HONG KONG, June 22 (Reuters) - China Resources Enterprise Ltd , the country's biggest supermarket operator and top beer maker, said it does not rule out overseas acquisition opportunities but is not interested in bidding for Australia's Foster's Group Ltd , and that its main focus is developing the mainland market.

"We are not interested in bidding for Foster's, our focus is in China," Vincent Tse, general manager for Strategic planning and investor relations, told Reuters without elaborating.

Last month, China Resources Enterprise said it was eyeing overseas asset acquisitions, but added that there was nothing in the pipeline. It said it was looking at 6-7 deals in China including breweries, supermarkets and beverage operations and had sufficient financial support for acquisitions.

Market watchers have speculated that cash-rich Chinese companies might be interested in bidding for Foster's assets as they aim to expand overseas. Among Chinese brewers, China Resources Enterprise is seen as having the financial muscle for major acquisitions, analysts said.

Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd , China's best-known beer brand in which Japan's Asahi Breweries owns a stake, said earlier that it had no interest in buying Foster's assets. Company officials were not immediately available for comment on the brewer's latest stance.

Smaller rival Kingway Brewery Holdings Ltd also said it was not looking at Foster's. "It is impossible. Our focus is on the mainland market," General Manager and Director Jiang Guo Qing told Reuters.

Global beer giant SABMiller Plc launched a cash bid for the Australian brewer valued at A$9.5 billion ($10.1 billion), excluding debt, which Foster's rejected. Investors predicted Foster's would accept a higher offer. (Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Chris Lewis)

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