When the German brewery Gilde announced two weeks ago that it was in talks with a number of major players, all the usual suspects were lined up - Interbrew, Heineken, SAB Miller - with a view to a potential takeover.
Now the company has confirmed that it has accepted a bid from Interbrew, the Dutch group which is already a leading brewer in Germany through its Beck's and Diebels units.
Interbrew will in fact take 100 per cent control of Brauergilde Hannover, which in turn owns 85.4 per cent of Gilde Brauerei. The offer is conditional upon Interbrew acquiring at least 50.1 per cent of the shares of Brauergilde Hannover and on obtaining clearance by the relevant competition authorities.
The deal values Brauergilde Hannover at some €523 million, although taking into account the value of treasury shares for €32 million euro, Interbrew will in fact pay shareholders a total consideration of €491 million should they all decide to accept the offer.
Assuming the company gains control of Brauergilde Hannover, Interbrew 's German unit, Interbrew Deutschland Holding, will launch an offer for the remaining 15 per cent of the outstanding shares (free float) of Gilde Brauerei, as it is required to do under German law.
The total purchase price of both Brauergilde Hannover and Gilde Brauerei is therefore €575 million.
Gilde is the fifth-largest brewer in Germany with sales of €271 million and EBITDA of €63 million in 2001 according to German accounting standards. Interbrew estimates that this would translate to EBITDA of around €55 million according to international standards.
With a market share of 3.7 per cent, Gilde Brauerei is one of the most profitable and fastest growing brewers in Germany, and like most German brewers, has a dominant position in its home market - in this case, the city of Hannover, where its eponymous brand is the number one seller.
Its premium lager Hasseroeder is also among the leading brands in the north-eastern part of Germany, while other local brands such as Gilde Ratskeller, Gilde Pilsener, Lindener Spezial and Wolters complement the brand portfolio. Total sales volume in 2001 was 4.5 million hectolitres.
Interbrew said that the acquisition of Gilde would fit perfectly with its existing portfolio there, which includes Bremen-based Beck's and Diebels, which is based in Issum in the Lower Rhine region.
"We are convinced that we can bring a lot of value to Gilde Brauerei." said Hugo Powell, chief executive of Interbrew. "This is a strong and profitable and well run brewery with outstanding brands. We look forward to work with all local constituencies to the benefit of the brewery, its employees and its local environment."
Given the fragmented nature of the German beer market, where even major brands such as Beck's have only a fraction of the national market, Interbrew is unlikely to face any major problems from the competition authorities, and most of Gilde's shareholders have already said they are in favour of the deal.
But German beer aficionados are likely once again to be disappointed that another of the leading players - the fifth largest brewer in a country with more than 1,200 beer makers - has been snapped up by a multinational, although Interbrew would undoubtedly be the first to reassure drinkers that there will be no compromise on quality.
Nevertheless, the deal will put increasing pressure on other German brewers to co-ordinate their efforts to promote their beers to a wider audience or risk finding themselves passing into foreign hands.