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AUS: Asahi left to stew on P&N Beverages deal

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Australia's competition watchdog has delayed its decision on Asahi's proposed takeover of P&N Beverages, raising concerns that it could reject the deal.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will not report its decision on the Asahi, P&N Beverages tie-up until 16 December, it said this week. It originally planned to publish its findings in late-October, but it scrapped this deadline "to await further information from merger parties". 

The delay has renewed speculation that Asahi could struggle to get approval for its AUD364m (US$359.9m) takeover of P&N, which is the third largest soft drinks group in Australia. Asahi already owns the number two player, Schweppes Australia.

P&N Beverages would add around 50% to Asahi's current annual soft drinks sales in Australia, making the Japanese group a strong number two in the country behind Coca-Cola Amatil. Asahi said at the time of announcing the transaction that it expected P&N to achieve sales of JPY29bn in 2010. 

Should Asahi fail to complete the P&N takeover, there is speculation that its Japanese rival, Suntory Holdings, might seek to move in. Suntory owns Frucor, previously the soft drinks arm of Danone in Australia and New Zealand.

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