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Heineken in Talks to Buy Staropramen


The St. Louis Business Journal is reporting that Anheuser-Busch InBev is negotiating with Heineken to sell its Czech brands to the Dutch brewer. The paper places Staropramen’s valuation between $255 million and $306 million.

We’ve seen this before. Almost exactly a year ago, Heineken’s takeover of the Czech Drinks Union brands was given the green light. That move pushed Heineken into third place on the Czech market, just ahead of the legendary Budweiser Budvar, but still lower than Heineken’s traditional market share. At the time, Ron Pattinson sagely noted that Heineken doesn’t enter a market to take third place.

By purchasing Staropramen — and thus the group’s other brands Braník, Měšťan, Ostravar, Kelt, Velvet and Vratislav — Heineken would move to a very solid second place behind SAB Miller’s Pilsner Urquell group, standing roughly three times larger than still-state-owned Budweiser Budvar in third place (with around 30% of the Czech market vs. about 10%). It would combine the above-mentioned Staropramen brands with its current Czech portfolio of Krušovice, Hostan, Starobrno, Zlatopramen, Velké Březno, Louny and Kutná Hora.

Interestingly, the exit of Anheuser-Busch InBev from the Czech market might finally put an end to the idea of American Budweiser ever buying Czech Budweiser. However, Budweiser Budvar is still on schedule to be privatized in the next year or two. With its expanding presence here, Heineken would be a natural suitor. That would move it to around 40% market share, right behind SAB Miller’s approximate 49%.

What remains to be seen with the current takeover is if the Czech anti-monopoly office will rise from its slumber (prediction: not freakin’ likely). So assuming the takeover of Staropramen by Heineken goes forward, it might be time to name your Czech Beer Brand Dead Pool.

In Slovakia, for example, Heineken has shuttered many of the breweries they’ve purchased (such as Martiner and Corgoň), keeping the brands alive but moving production to the massive Hurbanovo brewery. And many of Staropramen’s brands here are similar zombies: Braník is no longer brewed at Braník; Měšťan is no longer brewed in Holešovice.

So make your predictions now. What Staropramen or Heineken breweries will be closed? How many more zombie beers will we see here? And will Heineken really end up buying Budvar Budvar?

NB: of the Czech brands that Heineken already owns, Hostan is pretty much over: it’s been partly brewed at Starobrno for ages. And over at Pivní deník, Honza Kočka jokingly predicts that it is the Staropramen brewery — located in prime real estate overlooking the Vltava river — that will end up being sold and turned into upscale loft apartments, just like what happened to the Holešovice brewery after Staropramen sold it. As always, “irony follows hubris” seems like a fairly safe bet.


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  1. A dead pool of Heineken owned brands, or breweries. From the moment they bought Drinks Union the word on the street was that Velké Brezno was going to be shut down with production shifted to the nearby Zlatopramen Brewery. I woulnd’t bet on a long life for both Louny or Kutná Hora, either.

    The most interesting thing, however is the possibility of Staropramen being shut down. The brand has a very bad reputation in the market already, but it is still very valuable and the brewery has massive capacity that I don’t think could be absorved by any of the other Heineken breweries, not even Krusovice.

    As for Heineken buying Budvar, I would actually put chips on Carlsberg, who are already working with Budvar. Though, what if AB-InBev has decided to drop the cumbersome Staropramen in order to raise some cash to buy the state brewery? One of the promises they made AB shareholders last year was that they would make Budweiser a household name in Europe, with the latest Euro Court ruling I don’t see that happening any time soon, unless both brands suddenly get one owner… I truly hope not.

    PS: If AB-InBev does pull out of the Czech market, will that mean that we won’t see Stella around anymore?

  2. It is not as though the loss of Smichov made Stella would be a great loss to the market. It is interesting that Staropramen has a bad reputation given the amount of people in the UK who think it is a decent lager (yes I know it is only the UK, but we are talking about some well regarded bloggers in that group of people). Pulling out of Staropramen on the part of AB-InBev does make me think that there will be some attempt to buy Budvar on their part. I had a friend working at InBev and they were apparently very interested in buying them and had positive discussions with the government.

  3. pretoria

    It the same for the South Africans as well: they brew Pilsner Urquell in Poland and in Russia.

    Also Gambrinus volumes come for a big part from the Kozel brewery or Ostrava!

    So a brewery is simply no longer linked to any particular brand. The same beer can be made in every brewery; just use the same ingredients and processes!

    It something we all have to get used to!

  4. Pretoria,

    Alternatively we can support the smaller breweries trying something different.

  5. Mestan also ended up redeveloped. I remember the great Mestan 12 which used to be sold, on draught, in Sv. Tomas, and, in bottles, on the station kiosks at the main station . . . My bet is, once the recession is over, the Staropramen brwery will be closed and the site redeveloped: quick ‘cash back’ for whoever ends up buying it. Maybe its sale to, say Heineken, will enable Anheuser-Busch InBev to buy Budvar after the autumn election. Heineken will get to distribute its (Brno-brewed?) brand instead of Prague-brewed Stella Artois (nothing like as good as the original, so no loss) and AB InBev will get a Czech premium beer brand which they can really develop as a world brand. I hope that Heineken will not mess around with Budvar which still tastes alamost as good as it did in the early 90s. (Interestingly, my British friends also like Staro in the UK.)

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