For Sale?

SABMiller said to be looking at acquiring Fosters

Foster’s is up for grabs – and SABMiller is considering a takeover.

Other smaller companies such as Asahi Breweries and Coca-Cola have shown interest, but analysts say the size of a transaction would be bigger that the market value of the first two and a deal with Coca-Cola will have limited cost savings.

Other larger brewers aren’t likely to be interested in Fosters at this time. With AB InBev still absorbing Anheuser, world No 3 Heineken agreeing to buy Mexican FEMSA’s beer unit earlier this year, and Heineken dividing up Scottish and Newcastle with No 4 Carlsberg in 2008, all are focusing on paying off debt.

Foster’s has sold off most of its beer empire outside Australia, with Heineken owning the brand in Europe and SABMiller the beer brand in the United States and India.

Foster’s has a curious history. Two brothers, W. M. and R. R. Foster, came out from New York in 1886 and built a brewery. They had a huge refrigeration plant, a new invention as exciting as the electric light bulb. They were able to store the lager for 60 days at 35 degrees Fahrenheit, unheard of at that time.

The brothers offered a deal the retailers couldn’t refuse; every pub in town received free ice if they bought Foster’s. They launched their beer on February 1, 1889, right in the heat of summer. In the past the only way you could get cold beer was to pull it up lukewarm from the cellar. Foster’s was an immediate sensation.

The Foster brothers were something of a mystery. They stayed only a year and went back to the US. In 1906, the Foster’s Brewing Company combined with five other breweries to be Carlton & United Breweries.