Kirin Revives Australian Unit Sale After Mengniu Fallout

Kirin Holdings Co. has revived a sale of its Australian beverage unit after scrapping a deal with China Mengniu Dairy Co. amid political strain, according to people familiar with the matter.

Japan’s second-largest brewer has started re-engaging with suitors who had previously expressed interest in Lion Dairy & Drinks Pty, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the talks aren’t public. Potential bidders could explore buying parts of the Australian unit, which includes milk, yogurt and juice products, the people said.

The asset had drawn interest from Asahi Group Holdings Ltd., Bega Cheese Ltd. and Pacific Equity Partners, according to previous reports by Bloomberg News and local media in Australia. Deliberations are ongoing and Kirin and potential bidders could decide against a new deal, the people said.

Kirin is considering the most suitable option, that includes a sale or continuing to hold on to the business, a representative said in response to a Bloomberg News query. Representatives for Asahi, Bega and Pacific Equity Partners declined to comment.

Kirin’s efforts represent a quick revival of a sale just days after China Mengniu’s plan to buy the assets for about 45.6 billion yen ($430 million) was quashed as Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the deal “would be contrary to the national interest.” Kirin and Mengniu had said they were ending the agreement, which was signed last year, as it hadn’t got the regulatory approval.

The Japanese company started the sale process for its Lion Dairy and Drinks business in 2018, as part of a plan to narrow its business scope to improve profitability amid a slump in beer consumption in its home market. Last year, the firm sold its Australian cheese business to Canada’s Saputo Inc. for A$280 million ($206 million).

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