Brewers Molson Coors and Grolsch have refused to be drawn on reports linking them with the race to buy Canadian beer maker Sleeman Breweries.

Reports in Canada have claimed the two brewers - plus Labatt Brewing Co. and Japan's Sapporo Breweries - were expected to table rival offers for Sleeman by yesterday's (31 July) deadline.

However, Molson Coors, Canada's largest brewer, refused to comment on the reports. "We have a policy of making no comment on mergers and transactions," a spokesman said.

Dutch brewer Grolsch was similarly reticent. A spokesman in at the brewer's HQ in Enschede said today: "They are just rumours and we will not comment." Sleeman distributes Grolsch's flagship brand in Canada, alongside other select brands from Boston Beer Co., Scottish & Newcastle and SABMiller.

Officials at InBev-owned Labatt and Sapporo could not be reached for comment.

Sleeman announced a "strategic review" of its business in May after InBev CEO Carlos Brito revealed that Canada's third-largest brewer was looking to sell up. Sleeman denied Brito's claims but said it would look at its options after seeing profits hit by the popularity of discount and import beers in Canada.

When contacted by just-drinks last night, an official at Sleeman said the company's chairman and CEO, John Sleeman, was unavailable for comment.

Analysts said that the acquisition of Sleeman would benefit Molson Coors, which is battling it out with Labatt for the number one spot in Canada.

"We believe a transaction would be readily digestable to Molson Coors in financial terms and see strategic merit to a combination since Molson is a market leader seeking to expand and upgrade its portfolio of brands," Stifel Nicolaus beverage analyst Mark Swartzberg wrote in a note to clients yesterday.

"That said, change of control provisions might, in time, cause some Sleeman partners to shift distribution from Sleeman to another market participant if Molson Coors buys the company."

Swartzberg said that at the close of trading yesterday, Sleeman had a market value of C$225m (US$198.8m) and debt of C$104m. He added that any sale "must be at or above 10x trailing EBITDA". Sleeman had EBITDA of C$32m in the 12 months ended December 2005 and C$37m in the 12 months ended December 2004.