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Japan. Asahi has its eyes on Grolsch, Peroni

Top Japanese brewer Asahi Group Holdings is taking a gamble amid a new wave of global consolidation.

Asahi's headquarters in Tokyo is shown in this photo taken in November 2015.

Asahi is poised to submit a bid to buy Grolsch and Peroni, two brands of beer owned by U.K.-based SABMiller. A deal could be worth around 400 billion yen ($3.37 billion).

But Asahi's bid for the two European brands could fizzle; investment funds and major European brewers are also believed to be considering whether to throw their hats into the ring.

Asahi's bid for Grolsch and Peroni comes about two months after Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's top beer producer, based in Belgium, announced its acquisition of second-ranked SABMiller.

Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller have a combined global market share of over 30%.

After the mega merger was announced, Naoki Izumiya, Asahi's president and chief executive, said, "We are now in a phase where we have to make a sortie aggressively before being swallowed up" by bigger rivals.

Asahi, which is best known for its signature Asahi Super Dry, is Japan's biggest beer producer. Globally, it is No. 10, with a market share of 1.2%.

Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller are under pressure to divest some of their assets so they can get approval for their merger from competition watchdogs in Europe and elsewhere. As a result, they are seeking bidders for the Grolsch and Peroni brands.

Asahi sees the merger between the world's two biggest players as a golden opportunity to expand its global operations.

In the five years since President and CEO Izumiya took office, Asahi has invested 350 billion yen in acquiring other companies. It made a 98 billion-yen purchase of New Zealand's Independent Liquor in 2011.

But Asahi still lags domestic rivals such as Kirin Holdings and Suntory Holdings in terms of overseas operations. Foreign sales account for just over 10% of Asahi's overall sales, compared with well over 30% for Kirin and Suntory.

In addition, Asahi has yet to establish a strong presence in the two huge markets of China and the U.S.; its overseas operations are concentrated in Oceania and Southeast Asia.

11 Jan. 2016

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