Asahi Breweries has secured a binding agreement to acquire Cadbury's soft drinks business in Australia.

The Japanese company, which announced its intention to buy the unit late last year, said today (12 March) that its wholly-owned subsidiary, Asahi Holdings (Australia), will purchase Schweppes Holdings, the direct parent company of Schweppes Australia and itself wholly-owned by Cadbury, for AUD1.18bn (US$762m).

The Australian Foreign Investment Review Board has approved the transaction, the company noted.

In 1999, Cadbury granted The Coca-Cola Co. a right of negotiation for the business. That right, however, expired this month.

Asahi said: "The acquisition of Schweppes Australia will strengthen our international soft drinks business, create a new platform for growth in Oceania and enable us to capture synergies across the group."

The transaction is expected to complete by the end of next month.

With eight manufacturing sites and 11 distribution centres, Schweppes Australia employs around 1,500 staff. In the year to the end of December 2007, Schweppes Australia reported sales of AUD749m, with EBITDA of AUD78m.

The company is the second largest player in the Australian soft drinks market, whose owned brands include Schweppes, Cottee's, Solo and Spring Valley. Franchised brands include Pepsi, Sunkist and Gatorade.