Carlsberg has Tsingtao in sights for takeover

The mainland beer maker is said to be among possible targets of the Danish brewer, which is seeking to tap into the region's rapid growth

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 3:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 November, 2013, 3:30am

Carlsberg's pursuit of faster growth in Asia may make takeover targets out of Tsingtao Brewery and Beijing Yanjing Brewery.

The Danish brewer's controlling shareholder signalled last month that it will give Carlsberg more leeway to pursue deals.

The US$15 billion company was eyeing about six potential candidates, especially in Asia, including Tsingtao and Yanjing, for a possible purchase, said a person with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified.

The Chinese companies produce some of the most popular beer brands in China, the world's biggest beer market.

Carlsberg holds a distant fourth place in the global beer market by volume after a wave of consolidation led by Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller and Heineken. In the past five years, Carlsberg largely held back while its bigger rivals took part in deals valued collectively at almost US$110 billion, according to data.

Now, Carlsberg is among brewers seeking to expand in Asia, one of the industry's fastest-growing regions.

For Carlsberg, "they wish to grow their size and they also want to get more growth into the business", said Casper Blom, an analyst at Svenska Handelsbanken. "Asia would be top of the agenda."

The maker of Tuborg beer and Somersby cider will have greater flexibility to go on a buying spree of its own after the controlling Carlsberg Foundation said it would drop the requirement that it hold at least 25 per cent of the share capital in the brewer. The foundation, set up in 1876 to preserve the Copenhagen-based brewer's independence, will continue to control at least 51 per cent of voting rights.

The charter was last amended in 2007 in a move that allowed Carlsberg to sell shares to help finance its portion of the company's joint purchase with Heineken of British brewer Scottish & Newcastle for a total of about US$15 billion.

Since that purchase in April 2008, Carlsberg has announced deals valued at a combined US$1.2 billion, data shows.

Of the almost US$110 billion of deals completed or announced by bigger competitors, the largest was InBev's US$52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch in November 2008.

The consolidation left Carlsberg fourth to the industry's three biggest brewers by volume as of last year.

The company's revenue of 67 billion Danish kroner (HK$93 billion) last year was about half that of its next-biggest rival Heineken.

Tsingtao has a market value of HK$78.1 billion.