Mega beer deal set to reignite Japanese brewers' foreign ambitions
* Japan brewers interested in AB InBev/SABMiller assets - sources
* Japan's beer market in 19th continuous year of decline
* Japanese brewers dominate domestic market, struggle overseas
By Emi Emoto and Ritsuko Shimizu
TOKYO, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The planned $100 billion merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller will be a wake-up call to the overseas ambitions of Japanese brewers, which are struggling to grow at home in a saturated market with a shrinking population.
Japanese beer makers including Asahi Group Holdings and Kirin Holdings Co hold more than 90 percent of their domestic market, but are tiny globally despite long-standing pledges to do more overseas as Japan's beer market slows.
If AB InBev and SABMiller are successful in their proposed marriage, then it will present Japanese brewers with an even more formidable global competitor.
But if the mega-merger forces the two brewers to shed assets in order to appease antitrust regulators, then Asahi, Kirin and unlisted Suntory Holdings are interested in snapping them up, people familiar with the brewers' thinking told Reuters.
"It will give Japan's brewers a chance to push ahead with their global expansion," said SMBC Nikko analyst Yoshiyasu Okihira. Continuación...