Asahi has agreed the NZ$1.5bn ($1.3bn) acquisition of Independent Liquor, the Australasian drinks group, in a deal that represents the acquisitive Japanese brewer’s largest takeover to date.
Asahi on Thursday said it had struck a deal for the Auckland-based group. Suntory, another Japanese beverage group, and Australia’s Coca-Cola Amatil are also understood to have shown interest in Independent Liquor, according to a person close to the situation.
Founded in 1987, Independent Liquor makes and distributes a range of alcoholic drinks, including Carlsberg beer, Whyte & Mackay Scotch whisky, Seagers Gin and Vladivar vodka. It also focuses on the “ready to drink” segment, with brands including Woodstock bourbon drinks.
Independent Liquor, which is being sold by private equity backers Unitas and Pacific Equity Partners, hit trouble in 2008 when the Australian government unexpectedly raised taxes on alcopops. The resulting drop in sales forced the group’s private equity backers to restructure the business under new chief Peter Murphy.
Phillip Bower, managing director of Unitas, said Independent Liquor’s management team steered the company through the regulatory upheaval resulting from the Ready to Drink excise tax. He added they had created “a profitable and market leading business with strong growth prospects”.
Buying Independent Liquor is Asahi’s largest deal since its £550m purchase of the Australian soft drinks unit of Cadbury in late 2008.
Asahi, which is Australia’s second-biggest soft drinks manufacturer by sales, has recently gone on an overseas shopping spree, in a bid to achieve its aim of raising its overseas sales to 20 to 30 per cent of total sales in the medium term, from about 6 per cent currently.
In July, it snapped up Malaysia’s second largest soft drinks maker by sales volume for Y21.6bn ($282.3m).
Earlier this month, the Japanese group deepened its presence in Australia after securing regulatory approval for its purchase of the bottled water and juice business of P&N Beverages.
It is also in the midst of acquiring Charlie’s Juices in New Zealand in an offer that closes later this month.
The group already owns a 19.99 per cent stake in China’s Tsingtao Beer, which it acquired for Y59.3bn in 2009.
Asahi has a stated aim to raise its revenues to between Y2,000bn and Y2,500bn from Y1,489.5bn last year, and “join the ranks of top global food companies by size”.
Asahi’s Japanese rival Kirin has also expanded its operations in Australia's food and beverages sector.
It acquired National Foods, which owns Australia’s top juice brand, for A$2.8bn in 2007, and also owns Lion Nathan, Australia’s second largest brewer behind Foster’s, which is the subject of a A$9.5bn hostile bid from SABMiller.
Independent Liquor began selling its products in Australia in 1997 before establishing production facilities in Sydney and Melbourne.
It also markets its products in Asia, Europe and North America.
Asahi was advised by Nomura.
Get alerts on Asahi Corp. when a new story is published