The Japanese taste for British and US classics

Gabriella Griffith
WE LOVE a bit of sushi in the City, sipping sake at the top of the Heron Tower or sampling the latest sashimi in Roka – but it looks like our friends in Japan have reciprocated and developed a taste for all things western, snapping up British and American brands faster than you can say “sayonara Scotch whisky”.

Yesterday Jim Beam became one of the latest brands to be bought up by a Japanese company – going as part of a $16bn deal.

If they’re planning a party over in the Land of the Rising Sun, Suntory now has an impressive bounty of international booze labels. The purchase of Beam Inc puts Scotch whiskies Teacher’s and Laphroaig under its ownership as well as British classic Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Any non-drinkers could sip on UK stalwarts Ribena or Lucozade, which the firm bought from GlaxoSmithKline back in September.

And let’s not forget the other British brands now under Japanese ownership.

Firm household favourite Branston pickle was sold to Mizkan in 2012 and the maker of both Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut were sold to Japanese Tobacco in 2007.

Booze, fags and Branston pickle? Sounds like a Saturday night in Dalston.

■ With the hopefulness of Christmas and the joviality of New Year fading swiftly, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear if your colleagues were coming down with a case of the winter blues, or as the professionals call it, seasonal affective disorder (SAD). But one City office space is soon to be bathed in glorious (albeit fake) sunshine in order to keep spirits up.

The Office Group, which provides flexible workspaces, has installed light boxes (specially designed to ward off SAD) in its Euston office and will be bringing them to its City space soon.

“After the fantastic feedback we received from clients in our Euston office, we’re installing light boxes in our Warnford Court building on Throgmorton Street, in the heart of The City, to increase workers’ access to light at anytime of the day,” Olly Olsen, co-founder and co-CEO of The Office Group, told The Capitalist.

Olsen himself has his own reason to be cheery this January. The Office Group has just announced a £95m refinancing deal with HSBC to find the next stage of its expansion. That should keep him in light boxes for a while...

■ European Central Bank president Mario Draghi’s attempts to drag (pun very much intended) the Eurozone out of the doldrums might be largely unsuccessful so far but it seems he still has his fans.

He’s been named “governor of the year”, and while we sympathise with the Central Banking Award judges (it’s not a category filled with exhilarating candidates), it seems they must have overlooked looming deflation and unemployment that didn’t budge from a record high of 12.1 per cent in November.

While the panel cites his “unflappable conviction” as a virtue, we hope that Draghi might finally change course in 2014.

“It is still too early to declare victory and the recovery remains fragile, but we can see our very accommodative monetary policy stance finally finding its way through the economy,” he said.

Well, at least this small victory might cheer him for a while.

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