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Aussie craft brewer faces takeover bid by giant behind Castlemaine and Toohey's

Added: Thursday, June 21st 2012

Little Creatures, one of Australia’s leading independent craft breweries, is on the brink of being swallowed by Aussie giant Lion, owned by Japanese global brewer Kirin. Lion owns such leading Australian brands as Boag’s, Castlemaine XXXX and Toohey’s as well as smaller craft brewers Hahn and James Squire.

Fremantle-based Little Creatures has won many awards for its original beer Pale Ale, an American-style beer that uses Cascade hops, and has added IPA, White Rabbit and Pipsqueak to its portfolio. Its success led to a new, bigger brewery being built in Fremantle and – to give it a greater presence on the east coast – now has a bar and restaurant in Melbourne.

Lion already owns 37% of Little World Beverages (LWB), Little Creatures’ owning company, and the giant plans to buy the remaining 63%. LWB has recommended the deal to its shareholders, who have yet to vote on the offer.

Kirin values LWB at A$381.6 million and will offer shareholders A$5.30 a share in cash.

Rob Murray, Lion’s Chief Executive Officer, says: “Lion has a long history of supporting LWB and we believe this is a fantastic opportunity to get these brands to more beer lovers while respecting the craft brewing ethos of Little Creatures.”

There are fears among beer lovers that while Little Creatures’ main beers could be enhanced by the deal, the brewery’s single-batch and limited-edition beers might disappear. The plus side of a possible takeover is that Lion’s track record of supporting smaller brewers is good. Chuck Hahn, who runs both Hahn Brewing and the James Squire brewpubs, is given a free hand to develop his portfolio.