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Asia Business: SAB-Miller, Anheuser-Busch Prepare for Brewery Battle - 2004-05-10


A bidding war is brewing over Chinese beer company Harbin Brewery, while South Korea posts its biggest monthly trade surplus in six years.

The London-listed SAB-Miller, one of the world's biggest brewers, launched a $475 million hostile takeover bid for China's Harbin Brewery. SAB-Miller already owns a 29 percent stake in Harbin.

SAB-Miller's bid comes just days after its U.S. competitor, Anheuser-Busch bought 29 percent stake in Harbin, which is listed in Hong Kong.

The two giants appear ready to square off in one of the first hostile takeover attempts seen in China.

Alice Hui, an analyst at DBS Securities, says international breweries are eager to buy into Chinese companies as a way to get their products into China. "It is not easy to build a whole network in China," she says. "The distribution there is still quite backward in a way, so these take a long time to build a distribution channel like what these breweries already have."

The international credit ratings agency, Moody's, says China's recent decision to postpone greater democracy for Hong Kong could affect the city's rating. The agency rates governments to give investors some idea of how much risk they face when putting money in certain markets. It also affects the price governments can get for selling bonds. Hong Kong's current rating of A-1 is a notch above China's, and Moody's is keeping its rating for Hong Kong stable for now.

South Korea's trade surplus jumped 34 percent in April from March, to nearly $3 billion. The government attributes the surplus, its largest since the end of 1998, to booming exports of semiconductors, computers and mobile phones to China and the United States.

In the Philippines, exports hit $3.3, in March, up seven percent from a year earlier. Most of the growth came in exports of electronics goods, in part because of robust demand in Asia.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company says its net profit more than doubled to $94 million in the first quarter of this year, compared with a year ago. The surge was mostly due to strong performance at its mobile phone operation.

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