Carlsberg buys controlling stake in China's Chongqing Brewery
COPENHAGEN/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Danish brewer Carlsberg (CARLb.CO) upped its stake in China's Chongqing Brewery (600132.SS) to 60 percent, strengthening its foothold in the world's largest beer market by volume, and hopes to further increase its holding, the latter said.
Asia has become the main battleground for the top four global brewers - Carlsberg, AB InBev (ABI.BR), SABMiller (SAB.L) and Heineken (HEIN.AS) - which need the growing middle classes in emerging markets to compensate for sluggish sales in Europe and the United States.
"It was essential for Carlsberg to get the majority stake. It makes it possible to implement its business strategies and increase profitability," Sydbank analyst Morten Imsgard said.
Carlsberg, which inherited a stake in Chongqing Brewery through its takeover of British brewer Scottish & Newcastle in 2007, raised it in 2010 to become the biggest shareholder in the Chinese company with 29.7 percent.
On Thursday it completed its purchase of an additional 30.3 percent for 2.9 billion yuan ($476 million).
"With this purchase agreement Carlsberg is taking a step towards strengthening its strategic investment in Chongqing Brewery, based upon its positive outlook for the Chinese beer market," Chongqing Brewery said in a statement sent to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
"Carlsberg hopes to continue increasing its stake in Chongqing Brewery, and hopes this deal will deepen mutual cooperation between the two firms, lifting the value of Chongqing Brewery and the investment returns to the stockholders," the statement added.
Carlsberg first launched its takeover offer in March, when Chief Executive Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen called the purchase "an important step forward in China", and was given the green light for the deal at the end of October.
Carlsberg's main owner, the Carlsberg Foundation, said in October that it wanted to drop a rule in its charter that it must own at least 25 percent of the brewer. That could open the door for a share issue and further acquisitions in Asia.
Sydbank's Imsgard said however it would be difficult for Carlsberg to grab other large acquisition targets in China ahead of other competitors which have more financial muscle.
Shares in Carlsberg traded 0.3 percent lower on Thursday at 1033 GMT, while the Danish benchmark index was flat.
(Reporting by Teis Jensen in Copenhagen and Adam Jourdan in Shanghai,; Editing by Sophie Walker)
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