By Julie Zhu and Julia Fioretti
HONG KONG (Reuters) – The world’s biggest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, has added Citigroup and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to the team of banks working on the sale of its Asia-Pacific business, three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The two join Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan, both of which are the sponsors, or leads, for the planned Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) which could raise up to $5 billion (£3.8 billion) for the heavily indebted brewer, the people said, declining to be identified as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
With main markets China and Australia, the region last year made up 18 percent of group volume and 14 percent of underlying operating profit, which in turn rose 13 percent to $3.1 billion. It was not clear how much of the business was up for sale.
AB InBev and BAML did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Citi declined to comment.
The Leuven, Belgium-based maker of Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois brands aims to spin-off its Asia-Pacific business to reduce leverage, the people said.
AB InBev’s net debt stood at $102.5 billion at the end of December, a figure inflated by its late 2016 purchase of nearest rival SABMiller for around $100 billion. AB InBev wants to bring its net debt/EBITDA ratio to around two times from a multiple of 4.6 at the end of last year. With that goal, it has halved its proposed dividend and said payouts will only grow slowly.
While AB InBev’s shares have risen 19 percent since reporting forecast-beating earnings in February, the brewer is battling to reverse a longer share price decline. Over the past two years, its shares have fallen 24 percent, in contrast to rivals Heineken and