Heineken buys Red Stripe from Diageo as merger mania takes over the beer market

Beer brands are being batted around like shuttlecocks these days as the £71bn merger of brewing giants AB InBev and SABMiller lumbers to a conclusion and the latest move is Diageo’s sale of its 57 per cent stake in Jamaican beer brand Red Stripe to Heineken for £515m.

Heineken, which now owns 73 per cent of Red Stripe adding in its existing shareholding, will make a full bid.

Heineken, in turn, has sold Diageo, now a niche player in beer with just Guinness, its stake in Guinness Ghana Breweries. Diageo says it wants to concentrate on the African market although there will inevitably be speculation that it will one day sell Guinness, one of the foundations of its empire but now accounting for less than ten per cent of group sales, as it concentrates on spirits.

Both markets, beer and spirits, have also been disrupted by the exponential growth of ‘craft’ brewers and distillers, making so-called premium brands more valuable.

Heineken UK will add Red Stripe to its UK premium beers which also include Desperados, Sol, Tiger and Birra Moretti.

The AB InBev/SAB Miller merger will eventually account for between 30 and 40 per cent of the world beer market although disposals may bring down the figure. Heineken, still controlled by the Heineken family, is clearly determined not to be left behind by the merger of its two biggest rivals.

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