IRISH drinks group C&C yesterday said it had acquired the UK cider assets of Constellation Brands – including Blackthorn, Olde English and Gaymer – for £45m in cash.<br /><br />C&C chief executive John Dunsmore said the price of the assets was “highly attractive”, while analysts said the deal handed the company a third of the UK cider market. <br /><br />The Irish drinks group, which owns Magners cider, said the deal is not conditional on clearance by the UK Office of Fair Trading, but will be subject to review by the regulator.<br /><br />The acquisition will double C&C’s cider volumes to about 3m hectolitres. The UK cider market is the world’s largest by value with total volume of about 9m hectolitres.<br /><br />“The deal strengthens C&C’s UK market position in cider, completing its portfolio and brings scale to the UK business,” said Davy Research.<br /><br />C&C will finance the deal via a new £60m facility.<br /><br />New York-based Constellation said it sold the assets to allow it to focus on its higher growth, higher margin wine, beer and spirit brands. It will use the proceeds to reduce borrowings.<br /><br />C&C expects the transaction to complete by mid-January and to be immediately earnings accretive.<br /><br />It expects to see about £3m of synergies by the end of the 2012/13 financial year, and cash costs for achieving these synergies of about £1.5m to be incurred in the 2010/11 financial year.<br /><br />C&C agreed to buy the Scottish and Irish businesses of Anheuser-Busch InBev in August, giving it Scotland’s top lager Tennent’s.<br /><br /><strong>JOE LEWIS</strong><br /><strong>CONTROLS 23<br />PER CENT OF M&B THROUGH PIEDMONT<br /></strong><br />Barbados-based billionaire Joe Lewis has been in the public eye for his activist shareholder approach. The currency trader, is thought to have lost $981m (£595m) from the collapse of Bear Stearns, the US investment bank, last year. Lewis, 61, also owns Tottenham Hotspur Football Club through his investment vehicle Enic. Lewis is also known for spear-heading a £70m investment in Bulgarian property development.<br />He is the majority shareholder of British pub group Mitchells & Butler and controls a 23 per cent stake.<br /><br /><strong>JP MCMANUS<br />SHARES A 17.5 PER CENT STAKE IN M&B THROUGH ELPIDA<br /></strong><br />Legendary gambler and race horse owner, JP McManus has owned over 100 race horses and at one stage owned a sizeable chunk of Manchester United football club with Magnier, before selling it off to US tycoon Malcolm Glazer. <br />McManus counts golf champion Tiger Woods as a personal friend and beat him when the two met in a head-to-head match at Limerick Golf Club. McManus also owns the luxury Sandy Lane resort in Barbados, along with his other Irish tycoon companion Dermot Desmond.<br /><strong><br />JOHN MAGNIER<br />SHARES A 17.5 PER CENT STAKE IN M&B THROUGH ELPIDA</strong><br /><br />John Magnier first made his name as Ireland’s leading throughbred race horse stud owner. But his outside interests have also proved to be very lucrative. The 56-year-old multi-millionaire built up the Coolmore racing empire over thirty years. But his personal friendship with Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was tested in a dispute over bloodstock rights to prolific racing winner Rock of Gibraltar. Magnier and McManus once held a stake in Manchester United and also own a 17.5 per cent stake in M&B’s.