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Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
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Asahi backs growth path for NZ opportunities


Local management of Papakura-based Independent Liquor seem safe with their ambitious growth plans under the control of Japanese drinks company Asahi, which is also in the process of taking over juice company Charlie's Group.

NBR staff
Mon, 22 Aug 2011

Local management of Papakura-based Independent Liquor seem safe with their ambitious growth plans under the control of Japanese drinks company Asahi, which is also in the process of taking over juice company Charlie’s Group.

Asahi Group Holdings last week confirmed it would buy Independent Liquor’s holding company, Flavoured Beverages Group Holdings, in its biggest-ever acquisition for $1.525 billion (¥97.6 billion).

The deal was first signalled a fortnight ago when Asahi was reported to have won priority negotiation rights from the private equity owners Pacific Equity Partners and Hong Kong-based Unitas Capital as well as the 11.75% shareholding of Lynne Erceg, widow of founder Michael Erceg (FIW 795, Aug 15).

The transaction is scheduled to be completed at the end of September, pending approval from foreign investment authorities in New Zealand and Australia.

Asahi president Naoki Izumiya said in Tokyo the company was embarked on a new growth path. 

“We are now changing to a new phase to seek growth using our network,” which embraces 15 plants and 27 distribution centers, he said. “We think Oceania can expect relatively stable growth” in terms of population and liquor demand.

Asahi’s first move into the region was in 2009 when it bought the Australian operations of Schweppes, the second-largest drinks maker in the market. This year it has added the water and juice operations of P&N Beverages Australia and Charlie’s, giving it the full range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Independent Liquor has been ramping up its marketing and new product programmes in New Zealand under general manager Julian Davidson, a former Lion executive.

It has actively lobbied against provisions in the Alcohol Reform Bill (see below) that would restrict the alcohol level in premixed drinks (RTDs) to 5% – a move aimed at reducing alcoholic consumption among young people.

The company argues the stronger mixes are mainly favoured by adults, who would be forced to buy bottles of spirits instead. RTDs have been the backbone of Independent Liquor’s businesses in Australia and New Zealand. The Woodstock Bourbon & Cola and Vodka Cruiser brands are market leaders in both countries.

Independent Liquor has also been expanding into the beer and cider markets under the Boundary Road Brewery monicker with recently launched craft ales to add to its portfolio of international brands brewed under licence. It also distributes some local wine brands.

The company reported annual net sales of $380 million in the year ended September 2010 with an operating profit of $83 million.

NBR staff
Mon, 22 Aug 2011
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Asahi backs growth path for NZ opportunities
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