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February 3, 2022updated 02 Mar 2022 3:14pm

Just Drinks’ Mergers & Acquisitions round-up – January 2022

A lively start to the year in M&A for beverages

By Rhodri Morgan

Beer & Cider 

Beer importer United States Beverage (USB) acquired Uinta, the largest independent brewer in Utah, in a deal made through a joint venture. The USB-founded JV imports a range of beer brands into the US including Canada’s Moosehead, Estrella Damm from Spain and Scotland’s Innis & Gunn. 

Kings & Convicts purchased Molson Coors’ Saint Archer San Diego production facility following the latter’s discontinuation of the brand. Molson Coors retained the rights to the Saint Archer name, despite immediately ceasing its production and distribution operations. 

Anheuser-Busch InBev terminated its partnership with Canadian cannabis company Tilray late last year, Just Drinks learned in January. According to Tilray’s CEO, A-B InBev was unwilling to enter the THC market in Canada, where cannabis beverages have been legal for more than two years. 

Royal Unibrew took full control of Norway’s second-largest brewer, Hansa Borg. Unibrew, which already owned 25% of Hansa, bought the remaining 75% for NOK2.5bn (US$287m). 

Monster entered the alcoholic drinks arena via the purchase of US craft brewer and seltzer producer Canarchy. The US$330m transaction sees Monster bring Colorado-based Canarchy’s Cigar City, Oskar Blues, Deep Ellum, Perrin Brewing, Squatters and Wasatch beer brands into its portfolio. 

Kirin Holdings declined to comment on reports suggesting the group is preparing to divest its stake in China Resource Holdings. A report from Japanese news outlet Nikkei claimed that Kirin will sell its 40% stake, valued by Nikkei at around JPY100bn (US$874m), to an unnamed Chinese fund “as soon as February.”

Just Drinks learned that Kirin is considering the divestment of its Fourpure Brewing Co and Magic Rock Brewing Co units in the UK. The company’s Lion subsidiary confirmed that its Lion Little World Beverages UK unit, which oversees the two craft brewers, is the subject of a business review. The move was framed in the context of “difficult trading conditions” in the UK and recent craft acquisitions by Kirin elsewhere.

Coca-Cola Europacific Partners called time on its longstanding beer joint venture with Casella Family Brands in Australia. The company confirmed the divestment of its holding in Australian Beer Co, set up with Casella by forebearer Coca-Cola Amatil in 2013, as part of a decision to focus on its spirits, alcoholic and non-alcoholic RTD portfolios.

Soft Drinks 

Coca-Cola HBC completed its purchase of a majority holding in North African beverage group Coca-Cola Bottling Co of Egypt. The transaction, first announced in August, provides CCHBC with a sizable boost to its footprint in Africa, where the company already operates in Nigeria.

Beam Suntory bought into US RTD start-up Flying Embers, leading on a US$20m funding round for Flying Embers, which was founded by Bill Moses five years ago. Moses had previously offloaded his Kevita kombucha brand to PepsiCo in 2016 for a then-reported $200m.

Spirits

Constellation Brands entered into a partnership with The Coca-Cola Co for an alcoholic line from the latter’s Fresca CSD brand. The multi-category group will handle the manufacturing, marketing, distribution and launch of Fresca Mixed – a range of spirits-based RTD cocktails – across the US. Fresca Mixed is expected to launch later this year.

UK-based craft distiller Eden Mill sold off majority control to private equity start-up Inverleith. The transaction will allow the Scottish gin and Scotch producer to move forward with its planned construction of a production facility near St Andrews in Scotland, with production slated to commence towards the end of this year.

Heaven Hill Brands lined up the acquisition of “super-premium” spirits brand owner Samson & Surrey in the US. The transaction, for an undisclosed fee, will see the Tequila Ocho, Widow Jane American whiskey, Few Spirits, Brenne French whisky, Bluecoat gin and Mezcal Vago brands enter the Heaven Hill portfolio. 

Wine 

The company Santa Margherita Wine Group handed its US division control of Oregon-based Roco Winery last month. Roco was founded in 2001 and produces a range of wines that includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling varietals

Henkell Freixenet extended its sparkling wine presence to the UK through the acquisition of Bolney Wine Estate in the south of England. The European group’s UK-based Freixenet Copestick unit will oversee Bolney’s operations, which will continue to be headed up by the founders’ daughter, Samantha Linter.

Drinks industry acquisitions roar back in second half of 2021 – data

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