* Modelo has market value of roughly $23 bln
* AB InBev not immediately available for comment
* Deal would be latest in wave of consolidation
NEW YORK, June 24 (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest brewer and maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois beers, is in talks to buy the 50 percent of Corona beer maker Grupo Modelo that it does not already own, said a person familiar with the matter - in a potential deal that could top $10 billion.
Belgium-based Anheuser-Busch InBev owns a 50 percent non-controlling stake in Modelo, Mexico’s largest brewer, which has a market value of roughly $23 billion.
While the timing of a deal remains unclear, it could come as soon as this week, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported news of the talks on Sunday.
Representatives of Anheuser-Busch InBev could not be immediately reached for comment outside regular U.S. business hours. Modelo spokeswoman Jennifer Shelley said the company does not comment on rumors or speculation. The source did not want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
A deal would be the latest in a trend of consolidation in the global brewing industry.
In April, AB InBev’s Brazilian unit AmBev agreed to buy a controlling stake in Dominican Republic-based brewer Cerveceria Nacional Dominicana for more than $1.2 billion, forming the biggest beverage company in the Caribbean.
In the same month, Molson Coors Brewing Co said it planned to buy East European brewer StarBev for 2.65 billion euros ($3.5 billion) to expand in developing markets.
Brewing giant SABMiller late last year agreed to buy Australia’s Foster’s Group for A$9.9 billion ($10.2 billion), while Heineken, the world’s third-biggest brewer after AB InBev and SABMiller, expanded in the Americas in 2010 with the acquisition of Mexico’s second-biggest brewer FEMSA Cerveza, which also gave it a foothold in the Brazilian market.
AB InBev has extensive operations in North and South America and controls nearly 50 percent of the United States beer market and almost 70 percent of the Brazilian market.
A deal between Mexico City-based Modelo and AB InBev could finally end what has been a rocky relationship since the 2008 merger of Anheuser-Busch and InBev. That year, Modelo launched an arbitration case against Anheuser-Busch claiming it was not consulted about InBev’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch.
That arbitration potentially cleared the way for AB InBev to increase its Modelo stake, but after losing the case in 2010 Modelo CEO and board president Carlos Fernandez said controlling shareholders would not sell their stake.
AB InBev has 43.9 percent of Modelo’s voting shares, with the rest held by Modelo’s founding family members and other closely-tied Mexican families in a trust.
That trust may complicate plans to sell the rest of Modelo to AB InBev as its terms specify that shares in the trust must always be voted in the same way - in order to prevent a change of control at Modelo.
Lack of consensus among the controlling shareholders ended Modelo’s interest last year in a joint bid for Foster’s with Molson Coors, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Still, Modelo’s dominant position in Latin America’s second biggest economy and its popular export brands make it attractive to AB InBev. Modelo’s other main brands are Negra Modelo, Victoria and Pacifico. Exports helped Modelo to total sales of 91.2 billion pesos ($6.58 billion) last year and its shares have risen 10.7 percent so far this year.