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FRANCE: Remy buys Bols while eyeing Seagram cast-offs

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Remy-Cointreau, France's second largest wine and spirits company, has become the fourth owner of the Royal Bols Distilleries, the Dutch liquor company, it confirmed today.Remy will pay 510m euros ($463.2m) in cash and stock for Bols, renowned for its flavoured liqueurs since 1575, which was bought by US-based CVC Partners in 1998. Before this Bols had merged with the German dairy food conglomerate Wessanen in 1993. Under the agreement, CVC is expected to retain 10% in the new company. Bols chairman Robert van Ogtrop will join the enlarged Remy board as CEO and Remy chairwoman Dominique Heriard Dubreuil would remain in the chair of the merged group.Van Ogtrop said in a statement: "Bols has doubled its profit in two years and will bring strong brands to Remy's prestigious portfolio."With the drinks industry's attention focussed on the Seagram sell-off, this deal sneaked by analysts, though Remy had been saying for the last month it would take part in the consolidation frenzy sweeping the industry.However, a spokeswoman for Remy confirmed the company would still be interested in looking at any brands which were "spun-off" from a larger acquisition, possibly by Diageo/Pernod Ricard or Allied Domecq.The news of the Remy/Bols deal was well received with most drinks analysts although some still expressed concern about Remy's future debt levels. The French company is believed to have paid about twice Bol's turnover, which analysts said was roughly in line with the going market rate.The company believes that the buy will boost its exposure to central and East European markets and give it an important white spirits brand, in Bols Vodka, Poland's second biggest vodka and its biggest imported brand.


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