It looks like rival Japanese beverage companies are going to agree to a merger that would create one of the world’s leading food and beverage conglomerates. Suntory is getting closer to a deal with its larger rival Kirin, and if all goes to plan, the combination would create a company that has higher sales volume than either Anheuser-Busch In Bev or even Coca-Cola. Suntory and Kirin had combined sales last year of about 3.8 trillion yen, which is $41 billion. Kirin, is currently the largest Japanese food and beverage company, while Suntory is still privately held.
Suntory gained fame after Bill Murray drank their whiskey when it was featured in the movie “Lost in Translation” in 2003. Kirin grew rapidly in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the Japanese drank more beer and whiskey, but consumption of its flagship beer peaked in the mid-1990s. Since then, Sapporo has emerged as a growing brand and Asahi Breweries has about 37 percent of the Japanese beer market.
Helped by the strength of the yen, Japanese companies have been active overseas and Kirin and Suntory both made acquisitions, with Kirin announcing purchases totaling about $4 billion this year alone. Last year Suntory bought Frucor Juice from French food giant Danone for 600 million euros, or $835 million.
In April, Kirin bought the remaining shares of the Australian Brewer Lion Nathan paying $2.5 billion for the last of the 54 percent. That came after Kirin announced plans to buy43 percent of San Miguel Brewery of the Philippines for $1.4 billion.
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