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Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 10 News List

San Miguel may sell National Foods to Kirin Holdings

AP , MANILA

Shares of Philippine food and beverage conglomerate San Miguel Corp jumped yesterday after it said it was discussing a possible sale of its stake in Australia's National Foods Ltd to Japanese brewery Kirin Holdings Co.

San Miguel told the Philippine Stock Exchange the talks with Kirin were still "preliminary."

Kirin, one of the largest shareholders in San Miguel, confirmed it was "in the early stages of talks," adding that nothing had been decided at the moment.

Its 19.97 percent stake gives the Japanese company three seats in San Miguel's 15-member board of directors.

San Miguel Corp B shares, available to local and foreign investors, jumped 4.2 percent to 86.50 pesos (US$1.89). Its A shares, for local investors only, climbed 2.03 percent to 75.50 pesos.

Rupert Hugh-Jones, spokesman for National Foods, told Dow Jones Newswires there had been discussions between San Miguel "and other parties'' regarding the Australian dairy company, but declined to comment further.

As early as last year, San Miguel had broached the idea of a partial divestment from National Foods. News about the talks was first reported by the Australian Financial Review yesterday.

It said Kirin was keen to expand in Australia beyond its 46 percent stake in Lion Nathan Ltd and was considering a A$2 billion (US$1.7 billion) acquisition of San Miguel's Australian dairy and fruit juice assets as both companies seek to restructure their interests in the region.

Earlier this year, San Miguel sold its controlling stake in soft drinks bottler Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc and used part of the proceeds to repay US$370 million in debt, incurred mainly to acquire National Foods.

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