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Family business roundup: Billion-dollar mergers and sales for AG Barr, Comex and United Spirits

Scottish drinks-maker AG Barr, controlled by the founding family, has merged with rival Britvic to create one of the largest soft drinks groups in Europe by revenues, while a number of other family businesses are also expanding or selling.

Scottish drinks-maker AG Barr, controlled by the founding family, has merged with rival Britvic to create one of the largest soft drinks groups in Europe by revenues, while a number of other family businesses are also expanding or selling.

AG Barr, famous for the Irn-Bru drink, said on 14 November that its merger with fellow British firm Britvic will create a new company to be named Barr Britvic Soft Drinks.

While shareholders in Britvic will own 63% of the new entity, AG Barr shareholders will hold a 37% stake, said the release. The Barr family, which owned 38% of AG Barr, will see its holding in the new business fall to less than 15%.

AG Barr, which traces its roots to 1875 when it was founded by Robert Barr, added that the merged group is expected to have revenues of more than £1.5 billion (€1.9 billion) annually.

Meanwhile, the family behind Mexican paint company Comex is to sell its stake to Sherwin-Williams – a publically listed American business – in a deal netting the Achars around $2.3 billion (€1.8 billion).

The 60-year-old family business, which operates in Latin America, the US and Canada, first began operating from the family’s garage, and has since grown to become a $1.4 billion group.

The deal between Comex, which makes and sells paint and coating products, and Sherwin-Williams is subject to regulatory approval.

In India, liquor baron Vijay Mallya has sold the majority of his flagship United Spirits to British alcohol group Diageo, but will remain chairman of the company.

The deal, worth around $2 billion, comes on the back of financial difficulty at Kingfisher Airlines – also owned by Mallya. The airline’s flights have been grounded since October after the Indian authorities suspended its licence to fly due to safety concerns. Debt-laden Kingfisher has also had difficulty paying employees’ salaries.

It is thought that Mallya, often dubbed the king of good times, will use some of the sale proceeds to pay salaries to employees, airport fees and fuel bills.

In Texas, Arlan’s Market, a family-owned grocery store operator, has added more stores to its chain through two acquisitions – of Bexar County Markets, also a group with family links, and Diamond W.

The purchase marks the end of the Becker family’s 86-year relationship with Bexar, which runs stores named Handy Andy. Bexar reportedly had revenues of more than $200 million in the 1970s, but growing competition and market changes saw the group filing for bankruptcy in the 1980s, with the family gradually selling stores and losing control.

In the media sector, Murdoch family-controlled News Corp has added one more brand to its portfolio. The American conglomerate has acquired ESPN Star Sports.

Once the deal is completed, ESS will become a fully owned subsidiary of News Corp, the company said this week.

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