Asahi Competing with Suntory for Orangina

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Asahi Breweries (2502.T) is in talks to buy soft-drinks maker Orangina, competing with domestic rival Suntory Holdings in a $3.8 billion auction, the Financial Times said on Friday.

Private equity firms Blackstone (BX.N) and Lion Capital, which acquired Orangina in 2006, are considering an approach from Asahi after an exclusive negotiation period with Suntory expired in August, the paper said.

Asahi spokesman Jin Yoshioka denied that the company was or ever had been in talks on Orangina. Suntory was not immediately available for comment.

Japanese firms are keen for overseas growth, lending hope to buyout firms struggling to find exit routes for their investments. Blackstone and Lion Capital, which confirmed it was in talks with Suntory, paid $2.6 billion for Orangina three years ago. [ID:nN09358450]

A Suntory spokeswoman reiterated that it was in talks to buy Orangina but nothing had been decided. She declined to comment further.

Privately held Suntory, itself in talks to be sold to bigger rival Kirin Holdings (2503.T), is still favoured to buy Orangina, and a deal could be announced on Friday, the paper said.

The FT said Merrill Lynch was advising Suntory. (Reporting by Mayumi Negishi and Taiga Uranaka; Editing by Hugh Lawson)