AB InBev Sells Central European Operations

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The world's biggest brewer AB InBev said Thursday it has agreed to sell its Central European operations to CVC Capital Partners in a transaction which could exceed $3 billion.

Under the agreement announced Thursday, AB InBev will sell the brewing and distribution rights of brands like Stella Artois, Beck's and Leffe in nine countries in order to pay off debt.

The Belgian-based brewer has been shedding assets to help pay for the $52 billion takeover of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch that formed the company last year.

Under Thursday's terms, the private equity firm acquires the operations for $2.23 billion with another $800 million contingent on the return on investment.

AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said the move will enable the company "to exceed our stated commitment to achieve $7 billion in divestitures, while better focusing our resources toward our core markets."

Last week, the company agreed to sell its 10 theme parks in the U.S., including the three SeaWorlds and two Busch Gardens, to private equity firm Blackstone Group for at least $2.3 billion. The company has also sold its Irish and Scottish businesses, factories and some interests in Asia.

Under the deal, CVC will acquire the operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. The operations will be renamed StarBev.

The private equity group will own the brewing and distribution operations of some of the group's age-old classics under license. AB InBev retains the rights to Staropramen in several eastern nations including Ukraine, Russia and beyond in the United States, Britain and Germany.

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