Exclusive: AB InBev attracts at least six bids for Pilsner Urquell, other brands -sources

A logo of Plzensky Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) brewery is seen behind empty bottles at the entrance of the beer-producing company in Plzen, Czech Republic, November 12, 2015. REUTERS/David W Cerny

By Pamela Barbaglia, Agnieszka Barteczko and Martinne Geller

LONDON/WARSAW (Reuters) - At least six indicative offers have been submitted by industry players and buyout funds for a group of beer brands being sold by Anheuser-Busch InBev <ABI.BR>, sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

First-round bids for the brands, which include Pilsner Urquell in the Czech Republic and Tyskie and Lech in Poland, were due on Monday, according to the sources, who declined to be identified as the process is private.

Worth more than 5 billion euros ($5.5 billion), the brands were put up for sale as part of AB InBev's $100 billion-plus takeover of SABMiller, which closed last month.

Japanese brewer Asahi Holdings <2502.T> and Czech investment firm PPF Group have submitted rival bids, while Hungarian energy group Mol <MOLB.BU> has teamed up with Polish juice maker Maspex Wadowice Group and Polish insurer PZU group <PZU.WA> to table a joint offer, the sources said.

Private equity investors Bain Capital and Europe's Advent, have joined forces, while KKR <KKR.N> has made a joint offer with Mid Europa Partners, the sources said.

Another consortium includes Swiss investment firm Jacobs Holding and Canadian pension fund PSP Investments with additional backing from Czech family office R2G, the sources said.

Polish billionaire Sebastian Kulczyk told Reuters earlier this month that he may use some of the proceeds from the sale of his stake in SABMiller to buy the Central and Eastern European beer brands. The sources mentioned recent talks between Kulczyk and the KKR-led consortium but said the parties have so far failed to reach an agreement.

China Resources, which took full ownership of the Chinese joint venture it had with SABMiller, was also interested in the assets, according to the sources, but it was not immediately clear whether it has tabled a competitive bid.

European private equity firm BC Partners, which initially looked at the business, has dropped out of the process, they added.

AB InBev, PPF, MOL, Jacobs, PSP, R2G, Bain and BC Partners declined to comment, while no one at Asahi, Maspex, PZU, Kulcyk Investment or the other private equity firms was immediately available for comment.

The sources expect second-round bids to be submitted next month.

Shares in AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, were up 1.6 percent at 103.55 euros in Brussels at 1618 GMT.

Asahi has bought SABMiller's Western European brands Peroni and Grolsch and could be interested in expanding its European presence, the sources said, adding that private equity funds were keen to take advantage of the growth in markets such as Poland and Czech Republic, where alcohol consumption remains strong.

Pilsner Urquell, for example, has about a 40 percent share of the Czech beer market, which has the highest per-capita consumption in the world.

AB InBev, maker of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona beers, agreed to sell SABMiller's European business to help get clearance from competition regulators.

(Additional reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague, Sophie Sassard in London and Krisztina Than in Budapest; Editing by Mark Potter, Greg Mahlich)