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Brewery giants looking to Asia / Suntory ready to spend 200 billion yen on M&As; rivals not sitting on hands

Suntory Holdings Ltd. plans to spend up to 200 billion yen on corporate mergers and acquisitions in Southeast Asia as it seeks a bigger slice of the market there, according to Suntory President Nobutada Saji.
In a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, Saji said Suntory "has yet to do any major business in Southeast Asia, but we're committed to strengthening our business activities in such countries as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia."
Saji said Suntory's business activities in Southeast Asia had "lagged our operations in the United States and Europe." The company is considering spending up to 200 billion yen in coming years to acquire companies in the region, Saji said.
Suntory has set the goal of boosting overseas revenue to 25 percent of total sales from the current 20 percent within three years, he added.
Already fierce competition among brewery groups is likely to intensify in marketing not only beer but also soft drinks and foods.
Other brewery giants such as Kirin Holdings Co. and Sapporo Breweries Ltd. also are poised to bolster their operations in Asia, each keen to raise the ratio of overseas sales to their overall revenue.
Sapporo has set its sights on soft drink maker Pokka Corp., which has extensive soft drink marketing capabilities in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The planned acquisition is also aimed at beefing up Sapporo's domestic nonalcoholic beverage business, according to industry sources.
Kirin's overseas sales ratio is the highest among the nation's major brewers, standing at 27 percent as of the end of 2009.
In an effort to raise this figure further, Kirin reached an agreement in late January with a major Chinese soft drink company under the umbrella of the China Resources Enterprises group, to establish a joint venture to produce and market soft drinks by June.
Asahi Breweries Ltd. President Naoki Izumiya has already indicated that his company also will be prepared to throw plenty of cash around as it steps up its own moves into Asia.
"We think it's strategically vital that we carry out mergers and acquisitions worth more than 500 billion yen," he said at an explanatory session of the firm's operations for the media in January.
Asahi hopes to increase the proportion of total revenue that comes from overseas sales from about 5 percent--the lowest among leading Japanese beer makers--to 20 percent to 30 percent by 2015.
Last September, Asahi clinched a business and capital tie-up with major Chinese instant noodle and soft drink maker Ting Hsin. Asahi said the deal had been instrumental in returning its business in China to the black for the first time in more than 10 years.
However, the breweries remain uncertain whether their envisioned operations in Asia will turn a profit in the near future.
9 Feb. 2011

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