USA/Japan: Asahi wants to fill the “American Gap”

Asahi is considering a full-scale entry into the North American market, Atsushi Katsuki, CEO of Asahi Group Holdings said last Thursday. "North America is the best and largest market," he was quoted by Reuters.

Just last year, the newly appointed CEO who had been CFO of the group before announced that ,,we are not considering any large-scale acquisitions.” (, 9.4.2021)

In recent years, as Asahi has internationalized its beer division to escape the negative trend in the domestic beer market with its aging population, the group has made several large investments that have increased the company's leverage.

In 2016, Asahi bought in two deals SABMiller’s European Breweries. In a first deal Asahi acquired the West European breweries including Peroni from Italy and Grolsch from the Netherlands for a total of USD 2.72 billion (, 11.10.2016), before also buying in a second deal SAB Miller’s East European beer business including Pilsener Urquell (Czech Republic), Tyskie and Lech (Poland), Dreher (Hungary), Ursus (Romania) and Topvar (Slovakia) for another USD 7.8 billion. (, 13.12.2016)

Three years later the group spent AUD 16.0 billion (USD 11.3 bn) to buy Carlton & United Breweries (CUB) from Australia. (, 19.7.2019) As a result Asahi had to sign an agreement with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp for a 1.185 trillion yen (USD 11 billion) loan. (, 25.5.2020)

After covering the Australian and European markets, Asahi is now targeting the North American market, which is still kind of a blank slate for Asahi. In order to fill the "American Gap," the company is considering brand acquisitions or collaborating with start-up companies in the region, Katsuki said. In addition, Asahi also plans to aggressively promote product launches in the non-alcohol and low-alcohol markets, which still have tremendous potential globally, according to the manager.

Meanwhile, in its home market Japan, Asahi announced earlier this year to close three breweries and one distillery. The closures are part of a restructuring plan based on the company’s new medium- to long-term management policy “to build an optimal production and distribution system in Japan and further enhance the company’s sustainability strategy.” (, 25.2.2022)

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