Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) shares traded near the top of the European market Friday after it agreed to sell its Australian division for around $11.3 billion less than a week after cancelling the Hong Kong listing of its Asian business that would have been the year's biggest IPO.
AB InBev said it will sell Carlton & United Breweries, as well as the right to commercialize the portfolio of AB InBev's global and international brands in Australia, to Japan's Asahi Group Holdings for $A16 billion ($11.3 billion). Most of the sale proceeds, AB InBev said, will be used to whittle-down the company's $100 billion debt pile, much of which was added during the 2016 acquisition of rival SAB Miller.
"We continue to see great potential for our business in APAC and the region remains a growth engine within our company. With our unparalleled portfolio of brands, strong commercial plans and talented people, we are uniquely positioned to capture opportunities for growth across the APAC region," said CEO Carlos Brito.
Anheuser-Busch InBev shares were marked 3.8% higher in early Brussels trading to change hands at €82.23 each following news of the sale, recovering all of the stock's decline from the past week after it scrapped its planned Hong Kong IPO late last week.
Anheuser-Busch had aimed to sell around 1.6 million shares of Budweiser Brewing APAC at between HK$40 and HK$47 each, a level that would value its Asia region business at as much as $64 billion.
The sale itself would have raised between $8.3 billion and $9.8 billion and outpaced the $8.1 billion raised by Uber Technologies (UBER) earlier this year as the world's biggest IPO of 2019.
Anheuser-Busch raised the idea of listing its minority stake in Budweiser Brewing APAC earlier this year, telling investors on a conference call following its first quarter earnings that the move would help lower the group's debt load.
"Proceeding with the listing will depend on a number of factors, including but not limited to valuation and prevailing market conditions," CEO Carlos Brito said on February 28. "The merits of these initiatives are based upon the creation of an APAC champion in the consumer goods space. Furthermore, our superior portfolio brands and leadership position in the beer industry provide them attractive platform for potential M&A in the region."
Anheuser-Busch InBev said earlier this year that it sees revenue growth ahead of inflation in 2019 as it attempts to drive customers to higher-priced, premium beers while at the same time cutting costs and reducing its $102.5 billion debt load. Ab InBev said it wants to see the ratio of net debt to operating earnings fall below 4 by next year. It was pegged at 4.6 at the end of 2018.