By Ian Neubauer
An admission by Lion Nathan that its attempt to acquire Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) will not go ahead without the support of majority shareholder, US-based The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC), has sparked rumours that the Australian companies are but proxies in a multinational takeover bid.
“Certainly those parties need to reach agreement for this deal to happen,” Lion CEO Rob Murray said in reference to TCCC and Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings, which owns 46 per cent of Lion.
Murray has insisted the $8 billion takeover bid represents a “very compelling” offer in light of the world financial crisis and that it was Lion’s board — not Kirin’s — that initiated the deal.
However, reports that the two parent companies have opened lines of communication suggest otherwise. It is believed TCCC has dispatched a letter to Kirin outlining a series of guarantees relating to the ongoing independence of CCA before it even entertains the possibility of a takeover.
TCCC’s concerns stem from discomfort in merging a brewer with a non-alcoholic beverage bottler, and Lion’s foiled attempt to make a buck out of the Pepsi franchise in the 1990s (Lion sold its rights to distribute Pepsi in Australia in 2000).
Parallels have also been drawn to Foster’s failed bid to profitably combine wine and beer, forcing Murray to make a public statement differentiating the two. “This is not going to be our… beverage experiment,” he said.
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