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Anheuser-Busch Wins Bidding War for Chinese Brewery - 2004-06-07


Anheuser-Busch, the world's biggest beer maker, wins the battle for a major Chinese brewer, while China slashes the price of medicines.

U.S. beer giant Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser, has won the bidding war for control of China's Harbin Brewery. The battle ended when British rival SABMiller withdrew its offer and agreed to sell Anheuser-Busch its 29-percent stake in the Chinese brewery for $124 million.

Anheuser-Busch topped SABMiller's bid by 30 percent, with an offer of almost $50 million. The purchase gives Anheuser-Busch a controlling 36 percent stake in Harbin brewery.

Alice Hui, an analyst with DBS Vickers Securities in Hong Kong, says Anheuser-Busch was the favorite to win. "Anheuser-Busch has a slightly upper hand because they've got backing from the [Chinese] government," she says. "Harbin supports Anheuser-Busch."

Anheuser-Busch also holds a nearly 10 percent stake in China's biggest brewer, Tsingtao Brewery, while SABMiller owns 49-percent of China Resources Breweries.

It was the first takeover battle for a listed mainland company, whose shares trade on the Hong Kong stock exchange. The two companies are among many foreign beer makers eager to enter the world's biggest beer market.

China's banking sector also concluded a large deal this week, as U.S. equity fund Newbridge Capital says it will buy an 18 percent stake in Shenzhen Development Bank for $150 million, making it the first foreign investor to gain control of a Chinese lender.

Newbridge Capital will acquire the stake from four city government-controlled stakeholders.

China has slashed the retail prices of more than 400 medicines by an average of 30 percent, in response to long-standing complaints of overcharging in hospitals. The National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic planning body, says the price cuts are effective immediately. This is the first time the Chinese government has made such a big price cut.

In South Korea, U.S. financial giant Citigroup bought the non-memory business of South Korean chipmaker Hynix Semiconductor for almost $823 million. Citigroup will pay about 66 percent of the price in cash and the rest in assumed debt.

The Korea Herald daily newspaper says South Korea has suffered "a blow to national pride," as local producers of kimchi - the garlicky, fermented cabbage considered the national dish - struggle to compete with kimchi imports from China. Chinese kimchi costs only half as much as the South Korean product.

Sales of kimchi imports from China rose 174 percent in the first quarter of this year, eclipsing South Korean kimchi exports by nearly 3,000 tons.

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