By Ian Neubauer

Lion Nathan has signalled it will likely forsake its attempt to merge with Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) should it turn into a hostile takeover bid.

“Let’s be under no illusions: we’re not even remotely thinking this could be done on a hostile basis,” Lion Nathan CEO, Rob Murray, told the ABC.

“We’re not interested [in] that and if at any stage this becomes genuinely hostile, then we will just get back to our day job and focus on the knitting and drive our beer business.”

Murray’s admission follows a tumultuous week in the Australian beverage industry that saw Lion and its primary shareholder — Japanese brewer Kirin Holdings — seek to capitalise on the sinking Australian dollar and the stock market slump to snap up one of Asia-Pacific’s most dynamic beverage companies.

But Lion appeared to have bitten off more than it can chew when CCA’s primary shareholder, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) of Atlanta, said the $8 billion bid was too low and “other issues” too significant.

CCA chief executive, Terry Davis, threw more sand on the fire, saying the offer was “half-baked” after advising shareholders it did not represent fair market value.

Given the current uncertainty gripping the global credit market, it is unlikely Lion will increase its offer.

However, it may still opt to court TCCC directly, which, with its 30 per cent stake in CCA, is considered to be the kingmaker in any potential deal.

“I think… we need to regroup, make sure all the stakeholders understand the value. Clearly then, it’s appropriate for some sort of dialogue between Kirin, ourselves and TCCC,” Murray said.

“I’d love [CCA] to be alongside us, but if that is not possible, then I guess we circle back round with them after that dialogue.”
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The Shout Team

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