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Kirin seeks 43 percent stake in San Miguel beer unit

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's second-largest brewery, Kirin Holdings Co 2503.T, said it plans to buy a 43 percent stake in the beer unit of Philippine conglomerate San Miguel Corp SMC.PS, in a deal that could cost over $1.26 billion.

Japan's top beer makers, which include industry leader Asahi Breweries 2502.T and No. 3 Suntory, have been snapping up overseas assets to grow outside a shrinking domestic market and diversify further into food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Kirin has been the most aggressive of the group. Two months ago its Australian unit, Lion Nathan Ltd LNN.AX, bid A$7.6 billion ($5.2 billion) for soft drinks group Coca-Cola Amatil CCL.AX, one of several deals over the past few years.

In the latest transaction, Kirin said on Monday that it will enter exclusive negotiations with Sanguel Miguel Corp for a 43.25 percent stake in San Miguel Brewery SMB.PS, the leading player in the Philippines beer market.

San Miguel Corp, which is one-fifth owned by Kirin, plans to retain a 51 percent stake.

“This investment will significantly contribute to Kirin’s further growth in its alcohol business in Asia and Oceania,” Kirin said in a release.

Kirin said terms of the deal, including the price, still need to be ironed out. It aims to reach a final agreement by the end of February.

San Miguel Brewery shares listed on the Philippine stock exchange last traded at 8.8 Philippine pesos.

At that price Kirin would have to pay about 59 billion Philippine pesos ($1.26 billion) for a 43.3 percent stake, though Kirin may end up paying more if it is forced to offer a premium for the shares.

Kirin, which bought San Miguel Corp’s Australian dairy and juice manufacturer National Foods for $2.6 billion in 2007, has said previously that it was interested in taking a stake in San Miguel Brewery.

The sale of the stake to Kirin comes as the San Miguel group has been diversifying its operations into industries like mining, power and infrastructure.

The Japanese beer industry has been under intense pressure to secure future growth drivers in overseas markets or non-beer businesses given a steady decline in the country’s beer market, which shrank 15 percent by volume over the past decade.

Asahi Breweries said last month it had agreed to buy British confectionery maker Cadbury Plc's CBRY.L Australian beverage business for $811 million.

Kirin said Nomura 8604.T is its financial advisor on the San Miguel negotiations. Royal Bank of Scotland RBS.L is advising San Miguel, a person familiar with the matter said.

Prior to the announcement, shares of Kirin closed down 1.1 percent at 1,050 yen. The benchmark Nikkei average .N225 rose 0.3 percent.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco in Manila and Tony Munroe in Hong Kong; editing by Simon Jessop)

($1=46.99 Philippine Peso)

$1=1.472 Australian Dollar

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