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Japanese company eyeing bid for Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark bourbons


By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette

Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, 9 p.m. – A Japanese company is considering making a bid to takeover two of Kentucky’s most notable bourbon makers — Jim Beam Brands, which also owns Maker’s Mark.

Suntory Holdings Ltd., was established in 1899 and is one of Japan’s oldest companies in the distribution of alcoholic beverages. According to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbum, the purchase of Beam brands is a move for the company to expand into new markets while the domestic Japanese market continues to shrink.

Suntory is Japan’s largest whiskey maker, and a takeover bid is estimated to require close to $10 billion. Other media reports say Suntory is considering a partnership with the British-based Diageo in order to finance the buyout.

Beam’s market capitalization was valued at about $9.5 billion as of Dec. 10, and its share price has been rising. Beam, established in 1795, has headquarters in Deerfield, Ill.

One possible reason for the plan is Suntory’s announcement in September it was canceling its contract with Louisville’s Brown-Forman Corp., and has signed a deal to distrtibute 26 Beam product under 10 brands in Japan beginning in January.

Suntory has been a sales agent for Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s and Early Times whiskeys for more than 40 years. Outside the U.S., Early Times is labeled as “Kentucky bourbon,” however it does not meet the labeling requirements to be labeled as true Kentucky bourbon in the U.S.

Suntory has already been pushing sales of its soft drinks and beers in the global market as the declining birthrate and the aging society are expected to hurt sales in the domestic market.

Suntory took over French beverage maker Orangina Schweppes Group in 2009 for more than 300 billion yen as part of its push overseas.

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