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Labatt USA may be getting closer to a sale

A New York City-based private equity firm, KPS Capital Partners, is a finalist to acquire Labatt USA, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified sources, said Labatt USA could be worth $100 million. Labatt USA's corporate headquarters are in Buffalo and the company imports Labatt Blue and other brands from Canada. It employs about 55 people, about 20 of whom work in Key Tower, and sponsors local events like last weekend's pond hockey tournament in Buffalo.

The U.S. Department of Justice is requiring Anheuser-Busch InBev to divest itself of Labatt USA. InBev recently acquired Anheuser-Busch. The Justice Department made the divestiture a requirement, out of concerns that the merger will drive up beer prices in Upstate New York.

A spokeswoman for Anheuser-Busch InBev declined to comment about the sale process, and KPS officials did not respond to messages to comment.

Anheuser-Busch InBev was initially given 90 days to divest itself of Labatt USA. Last week, the deadline was extended to March 14.

Local interest in who buys Labatt USA has focused on whether the next owner would maintain the headquarters and jobs here, as well as its spending on local sponsorships. InBev moved Labatt USA to Buffalo from Connecticut in early 2007.

The Journal report also noted that KPS was near a deal to buy High Falls Brewing Co., the Rochester-based brewer of Genessee and Dundee brands.

KPS had ties to Buffalo Niagara through a previous deal. Through its KPS Special Situations Fund, it was the majority owner of Ohio-based Republic Engineered Products, which has a plant in Lackawanna. KPS sold Republic several years ago.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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