Exclusive: AB Inbev explores options for packaging ops - sources

Exclusive: AB Inbev explores options for packaging ops - sources
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Anheuser-Busch InBev pictured outside the brewer's headquarters in Leuven, Belgium, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir Copyright Francois Lenoir(Reuters)
By Reuters
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By Joshua Franklin, Arno Schuetze and Greg Roumeliotis

NEWYORK/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Anheuser-Busch InBev <ABI.BR>, the world’s largest brewer, is exploring options for its packaging activities as it streamlines its portfolio and focuses on its core beverage business, sources close to the matter said.

The company is working with Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> on a deal for its U.S.-based canning activities which AB InBev inherited when it bought Anheuser Busch in 2008, the people said. Deutsche Bank has been hired to explore a sale of a minority stake or a joint venture for AB InBev’s North American bottling and canning activities which could be worth $5-6 billion, one of the people said, adding that it was not aiming for an outright sale.

The $52 billion (£40.5 billion) Anheuser-Busch InBev merger in 2015 spurred a series of divestments, notably of non-beer activities, such as its theme parks. St Louis-based Metal Container Corp was mooted as a possible asset for sale at the time, but instead it was kept.

Now, after its $100 billion plus purchase of nearest rival SABMiller in 2016, AB InBev is again looking to reduce its debt, selling its Australian business and beer brands in Europe and floating part of its Asian operations.

Anheuser-Busch InBev and Deutsche Bank declined to comment.

Anheuser-Busch InBev last month issued a profit warning and posted weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings growth sparked by reduced demand for its beer in Brazil and South Korea. The cautious outlook came after main rival Heineken <HEIN.AS> trimmed its 2019 guidance following an unexpected dip in sales in the Americas.

Anheuser-Busch Inbev has already been sounding out interest from private equity firms for the packaging operations, one of the people close to the matters said.

Another source said that he expected the business to be valued at around 11 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization. Peer Ball trades at 14 times its expected core earnings, while other peers like Crown, Silgan and Ardagh trade at around 10 times.

“The main question is what value is attached to the supply contract that any buyer would seal with AB Inbev”, one of the people said. While the packaging business makes bottles for other parties as well, AB InBev is by far its largest customer.

(Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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