The Belgian brewer of Stella Artois, Interbrew, added Beck's beer to its stable of premium lagers yesterday, with the 3.5bn mark (£1.1bn) acquisition of Germany's privately held Brauerei Beck & Co.
Analysts queried whether the price tag – 13 times Beck's historical earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation – was too high. Luc Missorten, Interbrew's financial officer, said: "We are convinced that it reflects the fair value of this unique asset."
The price put Beck's beyond the grasp of Scottish & Newcastle, Britain's biggest brewer. Its rights to distribute Beck's will not be affected.
Interbrew said it would derive annual net cost savings from the deal of 20m euros (£12.4m) by 2004. Hugo Powell, its chief executive, said: "Beck's provides an excellent fit with our strategy of acquiring strong brands in local markets."
One analyst said: "Strategically it's a good buy. Financially they've overpaid." Beck's is Germany's fourth largest brewer. It exports 60 per cent of its beer to 120 countries.
The acquisition is subject to approval by Beck's shareholders as well as German and EU regulatory bodies. Analysts expect it to raise competition concerns in Britain, where Beck's gives Interbrew 40 per cent of the premium lager market.
Interbrew is still waiting for the Government to decide whether it must sell Bass Brewers, which it acquired for £2.3bn last year. A decision is expected later this month.