Australia. CCA to stay in beer market

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Soft drink supplier Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) says it will re-enter the beer market despite having to give up its beer operations if SABMiller succeeds in taking over Foster’s Group.

International beverage giant SABMiller made a $9.51 billion cash takeover offer for brewer Foster’s in June.

Foster’s rejected the offer, saying it undervalued the company.

CCA has a brewing joint venture with SABMiller, called Pacific Beverages, which competes with Foster’s.

Pacific Beverages makes the Bluetongue brand and distributes products such as Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Grolsch and Pilsner in Australia and New Zealand.

SABMiller did not wish to make a joint bid with CCA, and CCA did not wish to acquire shares in Foster’s.

Consequently, it was agreed that should SABMiller succeed in taking over Foster’s, SABMiller would buy out CCA’s half-stake in Pacific Beverages for between $305 million and $380 million and CCA would have the right to acquire some of Foster’s businesses.

CCA managing director Terry Davis on Tuesday said the outcome for CCA should SABMiller succeed in its bid for Foster’s would be “very, very positive”.

“While it’s part of the Foster’s deal that we will not play in the beer space for two years in Australia, we certainly intend to re-enter the beer market,” Mr Davis said.

“And in the interim we would have a significantly strengthened spirits portfolio.

“I can confirm that whatever the outcome of the SABMiller bid that CCA will continue to play a very meaningful role in Australian (alcoholic) beverages in Australia and New Zealand.”

r Davis said that the sale of the stake in Pacific Beverages would render a profit of $200 million to $300 million on book value, and interest savings alone would deliver an immediate lift of two to three per cent in CCA’s earnings per share.

CCA would also get the opportunity to acquire all of the Foster’s spirits, ready-to-drink mixed spirits and non-alcoholic brands at prices that would immediately add to CCA’s earnings per share.

“More importantly, by selling our 50 per cent share of the joint venture, our capability in alcoholic beverages does not disappear. Our sales force remains the same,” Mr Davis said.

“In the four years that we have been in this space (beer), our team has demonstrated the enormous value that our large-scale sales, distribution and servicing capability can do to good brands.”