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AB InBev to buy back South Korean brewery

BRUSSELS--The world's biggest brewer AB InBev said on Monday it will acquire South Korea's Oriental Brewery from investment funds KKR and Affinity Equity Partners for US$5.8 billion.

The deal brings Oriental Brewery, the leader in the South Korean beer market, back into the AB InBev fold after it was sold in 2009 during efforts to reduce the debt incurred in the merger of InBev and U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch.

“We are excited to invest in South Korea and to be working with the Oriental Brewery team again,” said AB InBev chief executive Carlos Brito in a statement.

“OB will strengthen our position in the fast-growing Asia Pacific region and will become a significant contributor to our Asia Pacific Zone,” Brito said.

The statement said the deal “is expected to generate benefits from a variety of sources, including maximizing their stable of leading brands to “drive premium growth and improved efficiencies.”

“AB InBev' s global platform also offers opportunities to export OB brands more widely,” it added.

Last year, AB InBev completed a US$20.1 billion merger with Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, adding the Corona brand to a portfolio including such icons of the industry as Budweiser, Beck's and Stella Artois.

That deal meant AB InBev controlled five of the top six most valuable beer brands globally.

For full-year 2012, the company reported a 24 percent increase in net profit to US$7.24 billion on sales of just under US$40 billion.

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