INDIA: Foster's bid talk baffles UBL
Reports in India had today (4 July) claimed that UBL, India's largest brewer, had tabled a bid for the Foster's assets. The breweries in India and Vietnam are up for sale as the Australian drinks giant looks to offload its international brewing business.
However, UBL CFO Lesley Jackson quashed the reports, saying that the Kingfisher brewer had "not made a bid for Foster's assets in India, Vietnam or wherever".
"UBL is not involved in negotiations whatsoever. We're not talking to them and I don't know where (Foster's) is in its sale process. I don't know where these stories are coming from," she told just-drinks.
UBL, which controls around 48% of India's fast-growing beer market, has long distanced itself from the Foster's assets, which include one brewery in India and two in Vietnam. The sites are the remaining Asian assets up for grabs after Foster's sold a brewery in China to Japanese drinks group Suntory last month
Foster's has been looking to sell its breweries in Asia after becoming convinced that it could not generate enough cash from the businesses in those markets.
However, Foster's believes that it could improve returns from its international brewing business by retaining the ownership and distribution rights to Foster's Lager in Asian markets. The company thinks Foster's Lager could succeed in the fast-growing beer markets in the region and kept the rights to the brand in China under its deal with Suntory.
Foster's is understood to be ready to accept similar offers for the Indian and Vietnamese markets. Asia Pacific Breweries and SABMiller have long been touted as the two front-runners for the Foster's assets. APB officials could not be reached for comment, while an SABMiller spokesman declined to comment.
A spokesman for Foster's in Melbourne also refused to be drawn on the future of the assets. "We're still focused on growing the brand and we've got good businesses that we're happy with. We're not making any comment on market speculation," he told just-drinks from Melbourne.
However, Foster's is believed to be in no rush to accept an offer for the sites in India and Vietnam. Foster's Lager is growing strongly in both countries - draught sales in Vietnam are up 30% - and the breweries are relatively inexpensive to run, so not draining cash from the business.
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