Asahi toasts acquisition as private equity firms sell Independent Liquor

PRIVATE equity firms Pacific Equity Partners and Unitas were yesterday toasting the sale of their drinks group Independent Liquor to Japanese brewer Asahi for $1.3bn (£787m).

Asahi, the maker of Super Dry beer, will buy all the outstanding shares of Flavoured Beverages Group, the parent company of New Zealand-based Independent.

PEP and Unitas, formerly known as CCMP, bought Independent for more than $1bn in a 50-50 split back in 2006.

Independent Liquor is New Zealand’s top-ranked ready-to-drink cocktail maker and is the third-largest in Australia.

Asahi aims to earn six per cent of its sales from overseas markets this year, which is below a target of 30 per cent set by Japanese rival Kirin Holdings.

Shigeo Sugawara, senior investment manager at Sompo Japan NipponKoa Asset Management, said: “With domestic demand weak, I have absolutely no disagreement with Asahi’s strategy of seeking growth overseas.

“The real issue is whether or not Asahi will be able to speed up profit growth at the companies it has bought.”

Asahi was advised during the deal by Rothschild and Nomura’s team of Koji Nagai, Kimizo Hayakawa, Kentaro Okuda and Peter Meurer.

Meurer was hired as Nomura’s chairman of investment banking in Australia two years ago. He was previously the vice-chairman of Citi Australia.