Budweiser brewer pledges Chinese commitment despite sale

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chief executive officer

Amidst ongoing restructuring of its global operations, Anheuser-Busch InBev says it has agreed to sell off its holding in Tsingtao Brewery, though remains committed to the wider Chinese beer market.

The company says that it has agreed a deal with Japan-based Asahi to sell its 19.9 per cent stake in Tsingtao for $667m (€507.6m) as part of its restructuring plan to repay debt from its acquisition of Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch last year.

Due to the minority holding, the group said it favoured a sale to better make use of the China-based brewer’s value in the current financial market.

Emerging market concern

Just last week, leading brewers suggested that they were facing trouble even in higher-growth markets such as Russia, due to fears over the economic downturn.

Rival multinational SABMiller in particular suggested organic sales volumes in Russia had fallen by 22 per cent over the three month-period ending 31 December. The group blamed de-stocking of wholesaler inventories that began in the country in September.

Carlos Brito, chief executive officer for the now merged Anheuser-Busch InBev, said that the group was nonetheless strongly committed to China, which he said represented the world’ s largest beer market.

“With strong local brands such as Harbin and Sedrin and global brands such as Budweiser, we are well positioned to benefit from the significant potential in this important market,” he stated.

Austere new year

Following on from the Christmas period, a number of brewers have been considering reducing risk in their portfolios by revaluating growth and expansion plans.

Diageo, which is responsible for manufacturing Guinness and a number of branded beers, also last week announced plans for ‘re-evaluating’ a €650m investment plan unveiled in 2008 to test its feasibility.

The review will be used by the company to decide if the proposed shake up of its Irish operations remains ‘appropriate’ in current financial climate, Diageo said in a statement.

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