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FREE TO READ - just-drinks' Mergers & Acquisitions database - November 2019

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Here, just-drinks consolidates the M&A activity in the global drinks industry during November, a month that saw Anheuser-Busch InBev finally take the plunge with Craft Brew Alliance, Bacardi make a canned spirits play and Refresco embark on a mini shopping spree in soft drinks.

Bacardi acquired full control of Stillhouse Spirits Co last month

Bacardi acquired full control of Stillhouse Spirits Co last month

Beer & Cider

Anheuser-Busch InBev is to take complete control of Craft Brew Alliance after finally agreeing a deal to buy the US brewing collective. The Budweiser owner, which earlier this year passed on a long-standing option to acquire the 68.8% of CBA shares it does not already own, said it will pay US$16.50 per remaining share, more than double the previous day's closing price.

Japanese brewer Kirin is to buy New Belgium Brewing as another leading light of the US craft beer movement looks set to be snapped up by a multi-national. Kirin said its global craft division, Lion Little World Beverages, had signed a "definitive agreement" to acquire New Belgium, the fourth-biggest US craft brewer by volume, according to Brewers Association data.

US hard cider producer Bold Rock has become the latest company to join the Artisanal Brewing Ventures craft beverages platform. The firm, which owns the namesake hard cider brand as well as a canned cocktail and hard seltzer line, will join Sixpoint Brewery, Southern Tier Brewing Co and Victory Brewing Co as an ABV partner.

ThaiBev is exploring a listing for its beer business on the Singapore stock exchange that according to reports, could value the unit at as much as US$10bn. In a statement, the Chang Beer owner said it is in consultation with external advisors over a potential listing of the beer operations. 

Why US craft beer is still holding its value - Comment

just-drinks' beer commentator has had another craft acquisition to digest this month. Stephen Beaumont takes a closer look at Anheuser-Busch InBev's decision to eventually move for Craft Brew Alliance. His conclusions may differ from yours.

Soft Drinks

Refresco looks set to continue a European buying spree with a prospective deal to acquire Britvic's three juice manufacturing facilities in France. The transaction, which still requires competition clearance and is subject to employee consultation, would expand Refresco's contract manufacturing footprint in France.

Refresco is to expand its recent spending spree on European production sites to the US with the purchase of manufacturing assets in Arizona. The Netherlands-based soft drinks producer and bottler has agreed to buy AZPack's manufacturing activities in Tempe, Arizona. Refresco said the deal will enable its "strategic growth" in the region.

Australian plant-food supplier Life Health Foods has bought Veg & City Drinks, rescuing the UK maker of Savsé smoothie drinks from administration. Life Health Foods bought Veg & City for an undisclosed fee, after the latter went into administration in October, blaming a competitive UK market made worse by uncertainties relating to Brexit.

Molson Coors has bought a minority stake in US soft drinks incubator LA Libations in a deal that gives the brewer first refusal on new beverage brands. The company said the long-term partnership with LA Libations, which has helped bring brands including Zico coconut water and BodyArmour sports drink to market, offers a stronger foothold for Molson Coors in the non-alcoholic beverage category.

Cott Corp has secured ownership of Netherlands water supplier Viteau International. The acquisition was completed through Cott's Eden Springs division. Viteau's operations feature around 6,500 on-location points, split between bottled water coolers and point-of-use filtration.

Japanese brewer Kirin is to sell its Australian dairy unit, Lion Dairy & Drinks, to China's Mengniu Dairy for AUD600m (US$407m). The divestment continues Kirin's offloading of underperforming overseas assets and hands over to Inner Mongolia's Mengniu control of brands including Pura, Dairy Farmers and Moove flavoured milk.

Are full-sugar soft drinks the new niche? - Comment

Has the sugar tax altered the playing field so much that full-sugar is now considered a niche selling point for soft drinks? Lucy Britner takes a closer look.

Spirits

Constellation Brands has completed its US$266m sale of Black Velvet Canadian Whisky to Heaven Hill Brands. The acquisition, first announced in August, includes the Black Velvet Distilling facility in Lethbridge, Canada. Heaven Hill said it has also acquired the remaining portfolio of Canadian Whisky brands owned by Constellation Brands, which comprises Black Velvet, MacNaughton, McMasters and the international portfolio of the Schenley brands - Golden Wedding and OFC.

Grupo Azucarero and The Island Rum Co have strengthened their Cuban rum partnership through a worldwide joint-venture. The pair announced the creation of Ron Vigia, a unit that will combine Azcuarero's production capabilities with The Island Rum Co's brand and distribution assets.

Bacardi has trumped a legal row with Stillhouse Spirits Co by acquiring the US-based canned spirits producer outright. The privately-owned spirits group bought Stillhouse for an undisclosed sum. The transaction fleshes out Bacardi's reported 36% stake in the start-up, which owns a namesake range of spirits packaged in 75cl stainless steel cans.

Why spirits brand owners should embrace the cross-category trend - Comment

Time was when spirits brands were sacred cows, held in such high esteem by their owners that they were kept in their categories and only allowed out to play with either flavour extensions or add-on iterations. Times have changed, though, and white spirits commentator Richard Woodard believes there is little - if anything - to be concerned about by letting your brand venture a bit further.

Wine

Accolade Wines has declined to comment on an Italian newspaper report claiming the group is looking to buy local winery Farnese Vini. Il Sole 24 Ore said that Accolade is evaluating a purchase of Farnese, which controls brands including Caldora, Vesevo and Tenute Rossetti. The southern Italian winery is owned by NB Renaissance Partners, a private-equity company that bought Farnese in 2016 from 21 Investimenti. A spokesperson for Accolade said the company would not comment on the report.

E&J Gallo has filled the time waiting for the closure of its acquisition of a raft of brands from Constellation Brands with a high-end wine purchase in California. The company confirmed that it has bought Pahlmeyer Winery in the state's Napa Valley region for an undisclosed price, including the Pahlmeyer and Jayson by Pahlmeyer brands, which retail in the US for between US$30 and $350 a bottle.

What challenges face the lower-abv wine segment? - Comment

While the efforts of brewers and distillers to create products with lower alcohol content are well-known, the wine industry has garnered far fewer such headlines. This month, category commentator Chris Losh looks at the difficulties affecting not only the production of 'lighter wine' but also the consumers' uptake of the concept - despite their purported interest.

Distribution & Packaging

Campari Group has lined up the latest acquisition in its ongoing shopping spree, this time in France. The company confirmed the commencement of "exclusive negotiations" with Baron Philippe de Rothschild to buy the former's distributor in the country.

Anheuser-Busch InBev has declined to comment on reports that the brewer is lining up another divestment, this time in the US. Reuters claimed the group is "exploring options" that include a stake sale in Metal Container Corp. The St Louis-headquartered packaging division supplies around 45% of A-B InBev's beer cans for the US and 5% of its lids.


Expert Analysis

Key Trends in Alcoholic Beverages: Powerful changes shaping the wine, beer, spirits and alcohol-free beverages industry

Key Trends in Alcoholic Beverages: Powerful changes shaping the wine, beer, spirits and alcohol-free beverages industry

Key Trends in Alcoholic Beverages: Powerful changes shaping the wine, beer, spirits and alcohol-free beverages industry...

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