Carlsberg is expected to look east for acquisitions and tie-ups

Carlsberg is expected to look east for acquisitions and tie-ups

A merger between Carlsberg and one of the other 'Big Four' global brewers remains "unlikely", but a tie-up with Anheuser-Busch InBev is not out of the question, according to analysts. 

In a note today (25 October), Bernstein Research analysts said that if the Danish brewer did combine with another major brewer it would likely be a “minority partner” which would be a “very difficult sell in Denmark”. However, a Carlsberg combination with Anheuser-Busch InBev is a “theoretical possibility”, Bernstein said.

But the note added: “We doubt that A-B InBev wants increased exposure to Western Europe.” 

Meanwhile, a merger with Heineken for Carlsberg would “throw up way too many competitive conflicts in Europe,” the note said. And SABMiller would be “loathe to jettison” its 24% stake in Anadolu Efes, the analysts said. 

The comments followed an announcement this morning from Carlsberg that it plans to loosen its ownership structure to make the company more finanically flexible.

Bernstein suggested Carlsberg could now be eyeing a big deal in China. “We doubt if the Chinese government would ever permit an outright takeover of... Beijing Yanjing, but we could see a deal where Carlsberg injects its Chinese assets into, say, Beijing Yanjing (approx US$2.5bn market cap) perhaps with a capital contribution, in return for a minority stake in Yanjing and future pre-emptive rights based on an agreed formula,” the note said.  

The analysts added: “More difficult to pull off but probably even more attractive would be to displace or marginalise Asahi as Tsingtao's foreign partner.”

Bernstein also suggsted Carlsberg could look at bolt-on opportunities in Asia, such as adding to its recent deal to acquire a majority stake in Chongqing, building on its JV with Boon Rawd/Singha, or increasing its stake in Vietnam's Habeco.