Asahi Group to acquire Independent Liquor?

Asahi Group to acquire Independent Liquor?

Asahi Group could be set to publicly snub Foster's Group in favour of a deal for Independent Liquor Ltd, according to a report.

Independent Liquor's joint-owners, Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) and Unitas Capital, have been seeking to sell a stake in the Australia and New Zealand-based drinks company, if not the whole business, for the past several months.

Earlier this week, Dow Jones reported that Japan's Asahi has emerged as the frontrunner to do a deal. The final deadline for bids was yesterday (4 August), the report said, citing sources close to the situation. Asahi's Japanese rival, Suntory, and China's Bright Food have also been mooted as possible buyers.    

Should any of those three prevail, it would represent a snub to Foster's Group, which has so far only attracted one bid since becoming a standalone, publicly-listed Australian brewer.

Independent Liquor specialises in RTD alcoholic beverages, but it also has beer and wine operations; something that the group's private equity owners have impressed on potential bidders, a source close to the firm told just-drinks in June.

PEP and Unitas acquired Independent Liquor for around NZD1bn (US$800m) in 2006. It is unclear whether they plan to sell a stake in the drinks group or exit the business completely.