Korean firm negotiating for brewery Former Heileman site in Halethorpe would be used to make liquor

Price about $25 million

A&E International bought old P&G Locust Point plant

February 21, 1997|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

The Korean manufacturer that bought the dormant Procter & Gamble Co. factory in Locust Point is negotiating to buy the Halethorpe brewery that was closed last year by Stroh Brewery Co.

A&E International Ltd. is considering a purchase for about $25 million, but the deal is not complete, a source familiar with negotiations said.

The company would use the brewery to manufacture Soju, a liquor popular in the Far East. It is not clear how many people the new owner would employ. The closing in December eliminated about 430 jobs.

A&E officials didn't return calls seeking comment.

A&E bought the Locust Point plant in December for $7 million. The company has said it plans to import raw materials, manufacture Soju at that plant and export the finished product. A&E has said it would hire about 100 workers for the Locust Point plant and begin operations in the spring.

It was unclear yesterday how an acquisition of the Halethorpe property would affect A&E's plans for Locust Point.

Lacey Logan, a spokeswoman for Detroit-based Stroh, said, "As we announced, we're interested in selling the property, not in redeveloping it ourselves. But we have no announcement at this time."

Stroh took over the Halethorpe plant -- the state's last major brewery -- in July when it acquired G. Heileman Brewing Co., the previous owner. In October, Stroh said it would shut the sprawling plant because it owned larger, newer breweries in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Charles Stansburge, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 570, which represented most of the workers at the Stroh's plant, said he was trying to confirm rumors of an imminent sale. "We can't get any statements from the corporate offices of Stroh at this time," he said. "It could be that they are at a sensitive stage."

He said the prospect that workers might return to the brewery if it is sold was uncertain. "Until I see the full picture, it's hard to state decisively which way we go," Stansburge said.

A new owner would not be obliged to hire former workers, who earned about $15 an hour, he said. "But Stroh has commitments to try to secure future employment and to highly recommend their former employees."

When the brewery closed, it was given little chance of resurrection. Amid industry consolidation, the building of larger breweries and the growth of Anheuser-Busch, the number of older, major breweries nationwide fell from 421 in 1947 to 29 in 1995.

A&E's interest in the brewery resulted from a trade mission to Korea last November by Gov. Parris N. Glendening and James T. Brady, secretary of the state's Department of Business and Economic Development. A&E is an attractive buyer because it does not compete with Stroh, a source said.

State and county economic development officials wouldn't comment on A&E's interest in the brewery. "As a matter of policy, we don't discuss whom we may or may not be in contact with," said Chuck Porcari, a DBED spokesman.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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