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The Deal: Suntory to Pay $2.1B for GSK Drinks Brands

By Laura Board In London

LONDON ( The Deal) -- GlaxoSmithKline on Monday, Sept. 9, confirmed a deal to sell its Lucozade and Ribena drinks brands to Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. for 1.35 billion pounds ($2.1 billion).

The price, the outcome of a preemptive bid which stalled a full-blown auction, is above most expectations. GlaxoSmithKline, which is shedding the popular British drinks to focus on bona-fide consumer healthcare products with greater traction in emerging markets, said it will receive net proceeds of 1.3 billion pounds and will use these to cut debt and for general corporate purposes.

"Lucozade and Ribena are iconic brands that have made a huge contribution to GSK over the years, but now is the right time to sell them as we increase the focus of our Consumer Healthcare business and execute the delivery of our late stage pipeline of pharmaceuticals and vaccines," said GlaxoSmithKline Chief Strategy Officer David Redfern in a statement.

For Suntory Beverage, the acquisition marks a major push into Britain and its first large deal since it raised 388 billion yen ($3.9 billion) in an initial public offering in late June, with proceeds earmarked for a planned 500 billion yen acquisition drive as it seeks to double sales to 2 trillion yen by 2020 through overseas expansion.

Suntory Beverage became a significant force in Europe with its acquisition of France's Orangina from Blackstone Group LP and Lion Capital LLP in 2009 for 300 billion yen. (Blackstone and Lion Capital were among the prospective suitors for Ribena and Lucozade before the British company entered late-stage talks with the Japanese bidder). Suntory Beverage is probably best known for its eponymous whiskey, the subject of an ad by Bill Murray's past-his-prime actor Bob Harris in the film "Lost in Translation."

The deal includes a plant in Coleford, near the English-Welsh border. In Nigeria, GlaxoSmithKline will continue to manufacture and distribute the two drinks under license from Suntory Beverage, of Tokyo. Ribena and Lucozade have annual sales of about 500 million pounds, GlaxoSmithKline said Monday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Greenhill & Co. International LLP advised GlaxoSmithKline, which expects the sale to close by year-end.

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