Molson Coors guzzles Europe's StarBev

The brewer is looking to buy growth abroad, but the $3.54 billion deal is no slam dunk.

By Jonathan Berr Apr 3, 2012 12:15PM
Image: Beer (© Corbis)Faced with lackluster U.S. beer sales, Molson Coors (TAP) Tuesday agreed to purchase StarBev, owner of nine breweries in Europe, for $3.54 billion.

The Colorado brewer is hoping to bolster sales overseas. While success is far from a given, the acquisition is worth the risk.  

StarBev, which is based in Amsterdam and Prague, has a foothold in markets in Eastern Europe -- such as the Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Montenegro. This region may be more attractive than Western Europe and is certainly a better bet than the U.S., where beer consumption has been declining for years.

"Even as ratings agencies humble mighty economies like America's and Japan's, they are upgrading the EU's newcomers (in Eastern Europe)," according to The Economist. "All ten have growing economies, shrinking budget deficits and falling unemployment."

Molson Coors estimates that it will reap pre-tax savings of about $50 million from production and purchasing efficiencies from the deal, which is a rounding error. Wall Street was not impressed with news of the deal, sending shares of Molson Coors down over 3% to $44.23 by midday. The reasons for investors' skepticism are understandable.
Marketing costs to support StarBev's portfolio of more than 20 brands will be considerable. The company's overseas push is similar to a strategy recently articulated by Anheuser Busch InBev (BUD), which plans to make Budweiser the "first truly" global beer brand to offset slumping sales in its home market. Is there enough growth for both companies? Unfortunately, beer sales in Europe are not great either.

A recent study found that European consumption fell 8% from 2008 to 2010 as the continent's economy tanked, according to the New York Times. Even people in the Czech Republic, who consume the most beer per capita in the world, are drinking fewer adult malted beverages. According to a 2011 BBC story, Czech beer production fell to its lowest level since 1989.

Since growth is hard to come by in the U.S., brewers such as Molson Coors will need to buy it elsewhere. More acquisitions of overseas breweries are a certainty.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the companies listed here.

Apr 3, 2012 2:22PM
Yup just as suspected the more people use marijuana the less beer they drink and thats why alcohol companys fight aginst legalizing weed. Thats why i always wait till after im drunk to puff but dont worry beer companys of america im tryin to pick up the slack for all the rest of these pansys.
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