Anheuser-Busch InBev to buy back South Korean brewery for $5.8 billion

By Lisa Brown St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS – Anheuser-Busch InBev is reacquiring Oriental Brewery, South Korea’s leading brewery, for $5.8 billion.

Belgium-based AB InBev sold the brewery in 2009 for $1.8 billion to cut its debt following its acquisition of St. Louis-based Anheuser Busch. Oriental Brewery, maker of Cass beer, has an exclusive license to distribute AB InBev brands, including Budweiser, Corona and Hoegaarden, in South Korea.

AB InBev said it will close on the purchase from private equity firms KKR and Affinity Equity Partners in the first half of 2014.

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

Beer volumes in South Korea grew 2 percent from 2009 to 2012, and premium beers grew 10 percent annually. The country’s beer market is expected to grow by more than 13 percent during 2012 to 2022, AB InBev said.

AB InBev’s purchase of Oriental Brewery is its largest acquisition since its $20.1 billion purchase last year of the half of Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo it didn’t already own.