HK property developer acquires Greene King

A Hong Kong billionaire has announced plans to acquire British brewer Greene King for almost £3 billion.

Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest man and the owner of property developer CK Asset, has reportedly reached an agreement to buy the brewer for 850p per share (a 51% premium) which is £2.7bn in total.

A spokesman for CK Asset was quoted in the Financial Times as saying the strategy was to look for businesses with “stable and resilient characteristics” and that the UK pub and brewing sector was exactly that.

Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie said that CK Assests, “understand the strengths of our business and we welcome their commitment to working with the existing management team, evolving the strategy and investing in the business to ensure its continued long-term growth.”

The Suffolk-based brewer owns 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels across the country making it the UK’s biggest pub owner.

Shares in the company have jumped around 50% following the news but pub association CAMRA issued a concerned statement, with national chairman, Nik Antona, saying: “The news that Britain’s largest pub and brewery company has been sold to an international asset company is very concerning for our beer scene.

“We are always wary of one company controlling a large share of the market, which is seldom beneficial for consumers. Greene King has been in operation for over 200 years and it is a very sad day to see such a well-known, historic and respected name exit the brewing and pub business.
“We hope that Greene King will continue its operations as normal without any disappointing changes. We will be calling on the new owners to retain the current pub portfolio to safeguard thousands of pubs and jobs across the country.”

In 2015 China’s premier Xi Jinping and then prime minister David Cameron were pictured drinking a pint each of the brewer’s IPA during a state visit, which sparked a wave of interest in the beer in China.

The pub was even bought by Chinese investors afterwards and is now a tourist attraction for visiting Chinese.

It is not the first buyout of a British brewer by foreign investors. At the start of the year Fuller’s sold its brewing operation (though not the pub arm) to Japan’s Asahi brewing group for £250m.

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