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Still, honesty is the best policy

From last year, the sale of Oriental Brewery (OB) has been on the lips of observers and journalists. Of note is how OB and owner AB InBev have dealt with the reports.

The Korea News Plus recently contacted OB to ask its stance – an official said, “we do not respond to market rumors.”

For me, it is deja-vu. A few years ago when I worked for a financial firm, it faced a similar situation as OB. Media inquiries inundated the company, which was rumored to be up for sale, and the official response was, “we do not respond to market rumors.”

Back then, investment bankers were already going ahead with the sale of the financial company, but its spokespeople just reiterated that sentence both to journalists and rank-and-file company employees who were worried about their job security.

I think that this was not a good strategy. When employees and journalists finally learned of the sale, I am sure they felt betrayed. By saying that such reports were “rumors,” the company practically denied them, even though the sale procedures were underway.

Let me go back to OB, Korea’s dominant brewery, and its owner – the world’s top brewery, AB InBev – which channeled $5.8 billion to reacquire the former in 2014. Five years earlier, it sold OB for $1.8 billion.

In my opinion, OB is also claiming that talks over AB InBev’s sale of OB are “rumors” to insinuate that this is incorrect information.

Then, why does it not merely state that such rumors are untrue, and AB InBev is committed to Korea? This generates more hearsay about the two companies.

If InBev is mulling disposing of its stake in OB, I think that the Leuven-based beer giant that has such brands as Budweiser, Beck’s and Corona should admit it.

Otherwise, OB employees and journalists might have the same feeling of being deceived, which would not be good for OB or AB InBev.

On April 1, 2014, AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito said that AB InBev “will not shy away from” OB. Although it was April Fool’s day, few suspected that he was not telling the truth.

The stance may have changed in line with the shrinking market here for made-in-Korea beers. And I want to ask Carlos Brito once again.

Mr. CEO! Please let us know whether AB InBev will not shy away from OB?”


The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at voc200@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.