Japan’s Asahi Group Buys PE-Backed Independent Liquor

Japanese beverage company Asahi Group Holdings will acquire New Zealand’s Independent Liquor, Reuters reported, citing the Nikkei business daily. Independent Liquor is currently owned by private equity firms Unitas and Pacific Equity Partners. The deal is valued at roughly 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion). Unitas and Pacific Equity Partners acquired Independent Liquor in 2006 for more than $1 billion, Reuters wrote.

(Reuters) – Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings is set to acquire New Zealand beverages group Independent Liquor, the Nikkei business daily reported on Sunday, as Japanese breweries face a shrinking home market and seek profit growth abroad.

Asahi, which won priority negotiation rights from private equity firms Unitas and Pacific Equity Partners, owners of Independent Liquor, plans to buy all shares of the New Zealand firm for about 100 billion yen ($1.3 billion), the Nikkei said.

It aims to reach an agreement this week, it reported, without citing a source.

The move follows a spate of deals by Japanese beverage makers looking abroad for profits as they face sagging domestic consumption and a strong yen, but a lack of targets in consolidating global beer markets has made expansion tough.

Asahi in July agreed to buy Malaysian soft drinks company Permanis for $274 million, while rival Kirin Holdings Co. last week bought a controlling stake in Brazilian beverage maker Schincariol for $2.6 billion.

Overseas expansion is a crucial component of Asahi’s plan to boost group revenues to 2-2.5 trillion yen in 2015 and to generate 20-30 percent of its sales overseas.

Independent Liquor, whose products include Woodstock Bourbon and Vodka Cruiser, had NZ$414.4 million ($347 million) in revenue last year, but recorded a loss of NZ$22.7 million. The firm is eyeing expansion into the United States and China.

Unitas and Pacific Equity Partners acquired Independent Liquor in 2006 for more than $1 billion, and China’s Bright Food Group has been among the list of possible buyers, sources said.

($1 = 78.490 Japanese Yen, $1 = 1.193 New Zealand Dollars)
(Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Ron Popeski)