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Molson Coors has said that its US$1.2bn share buyback does not rule it out of mergers and acquisitions, although the brewer appears to have bowed out of any race for Foster's Group.

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Molson Coors' CEO, Peter Swinburn, told analysts today (2 August) that Molson Coors "will continue to look at M&A opportunities". 

The launch of the three-year buyback programme, effective immediately, has thrown a fresh spotlight on the brewer's acquisitions policy, particularly in light of recent speculation that it held discussions with Grupo Modelo regarding a joint-bid for Foster's Group.

Swinburn indicated today that Australia's Foster's is off the radar. In explaining the rationale for the share buyback, he said on the firm's half-year results call: "We [have] flagged very clearly what we would do if we didn't have any opportunities on the M&A front and that's what we're doing."

In addition to this, Molson Coors has appeared more interested in mergers and acquisitions in emerging markets. In June, it agreed to bail-out Cobra India and take a controlling stake in that beer business.

Last year, Molson Coors paid $40m to take a 51% stake in a joint-venture in China with Hebei Si’hai Beer Co. Swinburn said today that progress in China has been "slower than expected" but that the group's plans there remain on-track. 

Asked whether Molson Coors is seeking more deals in China, Swinburn said that the brewer has "got enough on our plate at the moment". But, the company could be tempted for the "right opportunity".

He would not be drawn on how quickly the group plans to proceed with its share buyback. 

Today, Molson Coors said that net sales for the six months to the end of June rose by 5% to US$1.62bn, as price increases offset a 2.6% drop in beer sales by volume. Operating profits rose by 5.3% on the first half of 2010, to $424m. However, net profits dropped by 11% to $305.7m as the brewer cycled a one-off gain of $42m in the same period of 2010. 


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