Anheuser-Busch hires GA for Harbin beer bid

Hong Kong: Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewer, has drafted in Gavin Anderson for what could be China’s first hostile takeover.

GA Asia CEO Richard Barton started working for the firm two weeks ago after Anheuser bought a 27 per cent stake in North East China brewer Harbin Brewery from Harbin City Council for a reported £721m.

But Anheuser rival SAB Miller launched a £311m bid on 5 May for Harbin. SAB Miller, whose leading Chinese beer is Snow, already has a 29.4 per cent stake in the firm, which it bought last year.

Burson-Marsteller Hong Kong is advising SAB Miller on PR around its bid. SAB Miller’s financial adviser on the offer is Anglo Chinese.

GA has been advising Anheuser on the developing situation with support from its London office.

Last weekend (8 May), the Chinese-language Harbin Daily quoted Harbin City mayor describing Anheuser as the ‘right strategic partner’ for the beer maker. The news followed comments from Harbin Brewery CEO Peter Lo that the firm regarded Anheuser as its preferred long-term partner.

Lo claimed that SAB Miller had not produced promised synergies from its part-ownership of Harbin and rival company China Resources Breweries.

Anheuser has hinted at a counter bid, though at the time of going to press no offer had been made.

The main prize is Harbin’s distribution network. Control of it would give either beer giant a powerful tool to distribute their main brands throughout the Chinese market.

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