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E-Malt.com News article: Japan: Sapporo denies U.S. investment fund’s takeover attempt
Brewery news

Japanese brewery Sapporo Holdings denied newspaper reports that it was seeking help from its bigger rivals to block a takeover attempt by a U.S. investment fund, Associate Press reported February 18.

Major Japanese newspapers Mainichi and the Nikkei reported Sunday that Japan’s No. 1 beer maker Asahi Breweries was considering a white–knight bid to block the investment fund’s takeover of Sapporo.

"There is no truth to the reports about those proposals," Sapporo spokesman Tatsuya Komatsu said. He also denied reports that the company was approached by Kirin Brewery Ltd., or was considering a tie–up with Kirin, the country’s second–largest brewer.

The two newspapers had quoted Asahi Breweries President Hitoshi Ogita as saying Asahi Breweries would step in to help its smaller rival "if there is a request for our support" from Sapporo Holdings.

Sapporo faces a possible takeover by U.S. fund Steel Partners Japan, which already holds an 18.64 percent stake in brewer.

Steel Partners had proposed to raise its stake in Sapporo to two–thirds, effectively taking over the brewer, according to Sapporo, Japan’s No. 3 brewer.

The Yomiuri newspaper said Asahi Breweries was considering buying Steel Partners’ entire 18.64 percent stake – a step that would save Sapporo from the U.S. fund, while allowing Asahi to pursue a business tie–up as Sapporo’s top shareholder.

Many Japanese food retailers have scrambled to beef up capital alliances with each other to try to become more competitive, but much of corporate Japan is still reluctant to embrace U.S.–style management practices.

Despite Sapporo’s sagging profit and sales in recent years, its rivals were seeking business integration with the company as a way to take a bigger share in the domestic beer market, the Nikkei said.

The Mainichi said Ogita’s comment was Asahi Breweries’ first public statement indicating the possibility that his company may step forward to save Sapporo from the takeover.

Officials at Asahi Breweries and Kirin Brewery could not be reached Sunday for comment.

On Friday, both breweries denied a separate newspaper report that they are discussing a business tie–up, though Sapporo later said the company is open to a friendly offer.

"Asahi had a tough time too. Sapporo is making profits, and we can do it if we make new, valuable suggestions," Ogita told the Mainichi.

21 February, 2007

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