Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings yesterday said it would buy Independent Liquor of New Zealand for US$1.28 billion, its biggest-ever acquisition as the beverage giant looks to boost its overseas presence.
Asahi, known for its popular “Super Dry” beer, said it will pay NZ$1.53 billion, or ￥97.6 billion, for all outstanding shares in Flavoured Beverages Group Holdings, which entirely holds Independent Liquor, from private equity firms Pacific Equity Partners and Unitas Capital.
New Zealand’s leading ready-to-drink cocktails maker, Independent Liquor is also ranked third in Australia’s alcoholic ready-to-drink market. It is known for its pre-mixed drinks such as Vodka Cruiser and KGB and also makes and markets brands such as Whyte & Mackay whisky, Vladivar Vodka and Carlsberg beer.
The deal is scheduled to be completed by the end of next month, subject to regulatory approval from New Zealand and Australia.
Japanese firms have sought to expand in foreign markets as domestic sales suffer from slow consumption by the country’s shrinking and aging population.
A surging yen has also encouraged Japanese firms to invest abroad, with other beverage makers such as Kirin and Suntory also hunting for foreign purchases.
Asahi already has a foothold in the Australian soft drinks market through Schweppes Australia, acquired in 2009.
The latest deal comes on the heels of Asahi’s binding share purchase agreement to buy 100 percent of the shares of mineral water and juice maker P&N Beverages Australia, the third-largest soft drinks company by volume in Australia. It also plans to acquire New Zealand soft drink maker Charlie’s Group Ltd through a takeover offer.
The deal comes amid heightened activity in the beverage industry. UK-based SABMiller’s US$10 billion takeover bid for Australian beer giant Foster’s Group turned hostile on Wednesday as the world’s second-biggest brewer decided to take its offer directly to shareholders.
SABMiller, which makes beers Grolsch and Miller Lite, said its offer was unchanged at A$4.90 per Foster’s share, or about A$9.5 billion after its initial approach was rejected in June.
Foster’s, which owns Australia’s largest brewer Carlton and United Breweries, yesterday urged shareholders to reject SABMiller’s bid, saying it was not enough money. This was reflected in the firm’s share price, which closed A$0.10 above the SABMiller offer at A$5.00.
“The board of Foster’s, together with its advisers, has carefully considered the proposed offer and intends to unanimously recommend shareholders reject the offer,” the company said.
“The board of Foster’s reiterates its belief that an offer price of A$4.90 per share significantly undervalues the company in the context of a change of control,” it said.
“Foster’s shareholders are advised to take no action and ignore all documents and communications from SABMiller in relation to its proposed offer,” it added.