Suntory snaps up Jim Beam

At $13.6bn, the acquisition is the Japanese beverage company's biggest yet.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 14 Jan 2014

Suntory: sounds, admittedly, a bit like that time David Cameron was papped looking a bit burnt with his shirt off, but it’s actually a Japanese drinks company (remember Bill Murray’s ad in Lost in Translation?) which spent last year sniffing around UK beverage brands and eventually settled for Lucozade and Ribena, for which it paid £1.5bn.

Now the company has stocked its drinks cabinet again, buying US whisky manufacturer Beam, the maker of Jim Beam bourbon and Teacher’s Scotch, for $83.50 a share, a total of about $13.6bn (£8.3bn), which will make it the world’s third-largest maker of distilled drinks.

It’s been an acquisitive few years for Suntory: as well as Lucozade and Ribena, in 2009 it bought Orangina Schweppes. This, though, is by far its biggest deal so far: as well as its eponymous bourbon, Beam’s brands include Courvoisier cognac and Sauza tequila (alas, not the stuff with the worm in it), which Suntory will add to its Midori liqueur and Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki, Kakubin and Bowmore scotch brands.

Scotch is, as you can see, big business in Japan. Expect UK brands – Grant’s, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Talisker – to be targets in 2014.

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