Anheuser-Busch InBev has declined to comment on a report that private equity group KPS Capital Partners is among the frontrunners to buy the brewer's Labatt USA business.

InBev agreed in November to sell the Labatt USA business in order to gain clearance from US competition officials for its US$52bn takeover of Anheuser-Busch.

A number of medium-sized brewers have been touted as potential suitors, but an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday (8 February) cited private equity firm KPS Capital Partners as a possible frontrunner.

A spokesperson for A-B InBev declined to comment on interest from KPS, which is also rumoured to be set to buy New York-based High Falls Brewing Co. A spokesperson for KPS could not be immediately contacted for comment.

KPS co-founder and managing partner Michael Psarsos said in an interview this month, published in the Mergers & Acquisitions trade journal and on KPS company website, that the firm had "ducked" deals in 2008.

However, he added: "With that said, looking out over the next two to three years, we're expecting to see the buying opportunity of a lifetime."

Analysts expect a deal for Labatt USA could fetch up to US$300,000. 

Under the terms of InBev's agreement with the US competition regulator, the licence to market, sell and distribute Labatt will be handed to a third party. Labatt Brewing Company, based in Canada and partially owned by InBev, will then continue to brew and supply Labatt beer to the US licence holder for a minimum of three years.