Chinese beer wars

SABMiller, Anheuser-Busch escalate battle for China's No. 4 brewer

May 5, 2004 - SABMiller is launching a takeover bid for a Chinese brewer that could open up a battle with U.S. giant Anheuser-Busch. SABMiller's offer for the Harbin Brewery is $551 million.


London-based SABMiller, which sells Miller beers in the United States and many others around the world, already holds a 29.6% stake in Harbin. Under Honk Kong's stock market rules, if it owned 30% then a takeover bid would be required. Anheuser-Busch just purchased its own 29% share of Harbin. Harbin is the fourth-largest brewer in China and dominates the northeast China market.

Anheuser-Busch could raise its stake in Harbin to prevent SABMiller from gaining control, setting off a bidding war. Anheuser-Busch also owns a 10% stake in Chinese market leader Tsingtao Brewery, which it will raise to 27% by 2010 as part of a mandatory bond conversion.

In 2002, China surpassed the U.S. to become the world's biggest beer market by volume, and the country accounts for 16.9% of world-wide consumption. With beer sales growth in Western Europe and the U.S. is flat, the fast-growing Chinese market has become more important.

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