AMSTERDAM – Belgium’s AB InBev, the maker of Budweiser and Labatt beers, says it has agreed to repurchase South Korea’s Oriental Breweries from private equity firms for US$5.8 billion.
Oriental Breweries — known for the Cass brand, South Korea’s biggest seller — was sold in 2009 to KKR and Affinity Equity Partners after the combination of InBev with U.S.-based Anheuser-Busch.
In the meantime, AB InBev and Oriental Breweries continued to work together on a commercial level. OB had the South Korean distribution rights for brands such as Budweiser, Corona and Hoegaarden.
“We are excited to invest in South Korea and to be working with the Oriental Brewery team again. 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 chief executive Carlos Brito said in a statement released from Brussels and Hong Kong.
Oriental Brewing will continue to be led by chief executive officer In-soo Chang, and remain headquartered in South Korea under its current name.
It will also become a part of AB InBev’s Asia Pacific zone, which is led by Michel Doukeris.
AB InBev has grown into a global brewing company through a series of acquisitions, including the 1995 purchase of one of Canada’s two largest beer makers, Labatt Breweries.
It never really wanted to part with the leading South Korean brewer, but sold it in 2009 as part of a strategy to reduce debt during the financial crisis.