The final stages of Asahi Beverages’ $16 billion acquisition of Carlton & United Breweries is almost complete, with news Heineken N.V. will acquire the five cider and beer brands Asahi had to divest for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to approve the deal.
Heineken will acquire Strongbow, Little Green and Bonamy’s and the perpetual licences for beer brands Stella Artois and Beck’s in Australia from Asahi.
In May, the ACCC approved the Asahi/CUB deal on the condition Asahi sell two beer and three cider brands, with the ACCC having final sign-off on the buyer(s).
Asahi provided a court-enforceable undertaking to the ACCC to divest the five brands, which also required it to ensure the divested brands receive the same access to bars, pubs and clubs as well as off-premise space under tap-tying agreements as Asahi’s brands until June 2023.
Asahi said the cider brands accounted for about 20 per cent of the Australian cider market, with Strongbow taking about 18 per cent.
ACCC chair Rod Sims said: ACCC chair Rod Sims said: “Without the sale of five beer and cider brands including Strongbow and Stella Artois, the combined Asahi-CUB company would have accounted for two thirds of cider sales in Australia, and owned the two largest cider brands, Somersby and Strongbow.”
Asahi said it was is pleased to take a major step towards finalising the divestment process for alcohol brands owned or licensed by CUB. While still subject to regulatory approval, Asahi expected it to be finalised by Q420.
There will be no manufacturing job losses nor brewery closures associated with the deal, it said.
Foe Heineken, there is a sweetener of reuniting Strongbow in Australia with its global Strongbow portfolio after 17 years.
When Strongbow’s original owner H.P Bulmer sold the brand to Scottish & Newcastle in 2003, S&N sold its Australian and New Zealand interests to Foster’s, CUB’s predecessor.
In 2008 a consortium including Heineken acquired S&N, along with the Strongbow brand. It is now Heineken’s leading cider brand globally.
Heineken APAC president Jacco van der Linden said the company was thrilled to have it back in the stable. The company was active in pursuing growth, and scaling up its beer and cider portfolio in the region was testament to that, he said.
The five brands will be distributed in Australia by Drinkworks, a wholly owned subsidiary of Heineken, adding to its existing premium beer and cider portfolio in Australia incuding Tiger, Sol, Monteith’s beer and cider and Orchard Thieves cider.
In Australia, Asahi’s beer brands include Asahi Super Dry, Peroni, Cricketers Arms, Grolsch, Mountain Goat, and Two Suns. In cider, Asahi licences Somersby cider (from Carlsberg).
CUB’s beer brands include Victoria Bitter, Carlton Draught, Fat Yak, Crown Lager, Foster’s and Balter. CUB also licences and distributes a range of other beer brands including Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s and Budweiser. CUB’s cider range includes Strongbow, Mercury, Bonamy’s, Little Green, Spring Cider Co., Dirty Granny and Pure Blonde Cider. CUB also manufactures and distributes Bulmers under licence from Heineken.