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    Coors' European Expansion

    Number-three U.S. Brewer acquires Carling for $1.7 billion.


    LONDON -- Adolph Coors Co., the number-three U.S. brewer snatched Carling Brewers from under the noses of bigger brewers, giving it Britain's best-selling beer.

    Coors, based in Golden, Colorado, said it would pay Belgian brewer Interbrew $1.7 billion for its UK Carling division, which catapults Coors into second position in the British beer market.

    Coors' acquisition includes four breweries in England, the UK top-selling beer Carling, together with Caffrey's, Stones and Worthington brands. The deal would give Coors a 19 percent share of the UK market, second to Scottish & Newcastle, Reuters reported.

    Coors, the third largest U.S. brewer after Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc. and Philip Morris Cos. Inc.'s Miller, said it would finance the purchase with about $200 million in cash and a combination of bank and public debt.

    Chairman of the U.S. beer group, Peter Coors, said he saw the deal as an opportunity to grow market share, profits and cash flow in the UK, one of the world's largest beer markets, using both the Carling and Coors beer brands.

    Coors is buying a name in Carling, but the brand is seen as a standard lager, while big growth is seen in premium lagers such as Interbrew's Stella Artois and Scottish & Newcastle Plc's Kronenbourg 1664.

    Analysts said the price was in line with expectations but Coors, although on the auction short list, came as a surprise as Dutch brewer and Interbrew's bitterest rival Heineken NV was seen as the favorite. The Dutch brewer confirmed it bid for Carling, but feared it would have faced antitrust obstacles.

    Coors' acquisition includes four breweries in England, the UK top-selling beer Carling, together with Caffrey's, Stones and Worthington brands. The deal would give Coors a 19 percent share of the UK market, second to Scottish & Newcastle.

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