Britain’s largest pub and beer company has sold in £4.6bn takeover

Jane Ryan

20 August 2019

Greene King, the UK’s largest pub retailer and brewer, has sold to Hong Kong’s richest family in a £4.6bn takeover deal.

This is the second time in 2019 that an old British brewing company has been snapped up by an Asian buyer, after Fuller’s sold for £250m to Japanese drinks giant Asahi.

Buyer Li Ka-shing is a 91-year-old multibillionaire who also owns mobile operator Three, properties across central London, portions of water, rail and gas networks in Britain and pharmacy chain Superdrug. The deal adds to his already substantial empire of UK businesses as well as his immense global portfolio.

Thankfully, CK Asset Holdings, Ka-shing’s real estate firm, have already said it has no intention of cutting any of the 38,000 jobs at the 220-year-old pub and beer company whose portfolio includes Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and Abbot Ale.

The cash bid, which Greene King’s directors advised shareholders to accept late yesterday, valued the company at £2.7bn, or £4.6bn including the £1.9bn debt that CK will be taking on. This £2.7bn figure equates to £1m for every one of its 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels. Shareholders from Greene King’s will receive 850 pence per share.

‘The Greene King board is confident in the long term prospects of the business, said Philip Yea, chairman of Greene King. 'This offer represents a good opportunity for shareholders to realise value for their investment at an attractive premium, while also ensuring the future success of Greene King for employees, partners, customers and suppliers. We are therefore unanimously recommending it to our shareholders.’ 

Greene King IPA has had a recent surge in popularity in mainland China after President Xi Jinping was seen drinking it with David Cameron in 2015, a sales opportunity CK will be capitalising on.

‘CKA’s strategy is to look for businesses with stable and resilient characteristics and strong cash flow generating capabilities,’ said George Magnus, chair of the takeover vehicle the Hong Kong firm is using to complete the deal. ‘The UK pub and brewing sector shares these characteristics and we believe that this sector will continue to be an important part of British culture in the long run.’

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