Germany: Three local investors interested in AB InBev brewery

Hasseröder, part of AB InBev and the 8th largest beer brand in Germany with sales of 2.1 million hectoliters in 2016, might change hands to three local investors. After the world’s largest brewer initiated the sale of two of its German breweries in June (, 21.6.2017), buying interest from international investors and other breweries was limited. “We are talking to a limited number of investors”, said Harm van Esterik at that time. The Dutchman is in charge of AB InBev’s German operations since the beginning of this year and has the task to streamline the ailing German business unit.

The three local investors include Walter Schmidt, who was from 1993 until 2007 CEO of Hasseröder and who retired two years ago aged 64 from his last position as Executive Board member for marketing and sales in Einbecker Brauhaus. The other private investors are Uwe Treetzen, long-standing head brewmaster of the brewery, and Rainer Schulze, social democrat member of the local city council of Wernigerode since 2004, bookseller, singer and cabaret artist.

Last week, the three private individuals were to visit the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Saxony-Anhalt to evaluate a potential government support for the project. Armin Willingmann, Minister of Economic Affairs in Saxony-Anhalt and since 2009 like Schulze social democrat member of the local city council in Wernigerode, said he was “amazed” about the plan, which he said was “very ambitious”.

Observers see a realistic chance of success that the trio could succeed in the end. Already in 2006 four local investors bought Braunschweig/Germany based Hofbrauhaus Wolters from InBev, which later became AB InBev. In the same year InBev also sold Mauritius Brauerei from Zwickau to its two managing directors and a third individual. One year later Dinkelacker-Schwaben Bräu from Stuttgart was sold to its former owners.

In the past many international breweries were not able to cope with the difficult conditions of the fragmented and shrinking German beer market, which does not leave space for larger margins like in other more consolidated beer markets. Also Carlsberg, which entered the German market in 2004, when the Danish brewing group acquired Hamburg/Germany based Holsten Group, gradually withdrew in the last years from the German market. Last move is the sale of its historic brewing site in the middle of Hamburg and the building of a new much smaller brewery in the outskirts of the city (, 9.10.2017).

When Interbrew, which later became InBev and merged to AB InBev, bought Hasseröder  in 2002 it was the largest and fastest growing brand in East Germany. Interbrew’s  annual report 2002 read: “The deal brought us Hasseröder, a strong core brand with potential to expand, and a good portfolio fit with our existing operations.”  In 2012, Chris Cools, head of AB InBev in Germany at that time said Hasseröder “was one of the ‘top 20 brands’amongst all of AB InBev’s more than 200 beer brands brewed on all continents”.

From initially 2.4 million hectoliters in 2002 only 2.1 million hectoliters were left last year. In 2016 the brand lost 7.4% of its sales. Hasseröder, once supported by a strong national TV-commercial and sponsoring campaign has deteriorated over the years to a low-image beer close to the entry-level price segment with hardly any marketing support. Nowadays about 70% of all Hasseröder beer is sold in promotions rather than in regular sales.

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