Business / Corporate

Kirin unit buys fourth-largest U.S. independent brewery, New Belgium Brewing

Bloomberg

New Belgium Brewing, one of the largest craft beer companies in the U.S., has agreed to be acquired by a unit of Kirin Holdings Co., the latest independent brewer to be snapped up in an increasingly competitive market.

Lion Little World Beverages, a craft beer division of Kirin-owned Lion, will acquire the Colorado-based brewery in an all-cash deal. The price wasn’t disclosed.

New Belgium, known for its Fat Tire Amber Ale, is the fourth-largest independent brewery in the U.S., according to 2018 data from the Brewers Association. The brewery is owned by its 700 employees and has distribution in all 50 U.S. states.

The number of breweries in the U.S. alone has multiplied more than fourfold to almost 7,500 in the past 10 years, leaving some industry veterans to seek deep-pocketed partners in the crowded market. Anheuser-Busch InBev agreed to buy out Portland-based Craft Brew Alliance last week, while Boston Beer Co., the maker of Samuel Adams, bought Dogfish Head earlier this year in a deal valued at around $300 million.

The purchase is the latest for Kirin, which has been the most acquisitive Japanese brewer in the craft scene as domestic beer sales continue to slide. It bought a 25 percent stake in Brooklyn Brewery in 2016 and acquired London-based Fourpure Brewing Co. in 2018.

Chief Executive Officer Yoshinori Isozaki said in February that Kirin had a ¥300 billion ($2.8 billion) budget for acquisitions over the next three years and, with large M&A opportunities largely “exhausted,” was focusing on craft beer deals in America and Europe.

Japanese brewers have been particularly active on the global M&A scene. Sapporo Holdings Ltd. in 2017 bought Anchor Brewing Co., a century-old San Francisco brewer that helped pioneer the craft beer movement. Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. has focused on larger international deals, most recently spending around $11 billion to purchase Australia’s largest brewer from AB InBev.