Heineken makes move on Distell, owner of Hunter's, Savanna

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Heineken is emerging from one of the beer sector’s toughest crises. (Getty)
Heineken is emerging from one of the beer sector’s toughest crises. (Getty)

Heineken, the world’s second-largest brewer, has approached South African wine and spirits maker Distell Group. In a statement, the local company said Heineken wants to buy the "majority of Distell's business".

Distell owns brands like Savanna, Hunter's and Klipdrift.

"Shareholders are advised that Heineken has approached Distell regarding the potential acquisition of the majority of Distell’s business. Bearing in mind that there can be no certainty that an agreement will be reached, shareholders are advised to exercise caution when dealing in their Distell securities until a further announcement is made," Distell said in a statement.

Distell has a market value of about R31.8 billion. A takeover would be Heineken’s most significant transaction since 2018, when it agreed a partnership with China Resources Beer Holdings, maker of the country’s best-selling beer.

A transaction would add to $7.4 billion of deals announced in the global beverage industry this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s about 15% less than at this point in 2020, the data show.

Heineken is emerging from one of the beer sector’s toughest crises. Despite gains in Vietnam and Mexico, the brewer is still facing setbacks in key markets such as Brazil and the UK where restrictions on movement and sales have hurt demand. Earlier this year, the company laid off 8,000 employees. Still, it surprised analysts in April with stable first-quarter sales, as emerging markets made up for declines in Europe.

South Africa was one of Heineken’s best-performing markets, which is surprising given the country’s recurring ban on alcohol. Another driver was China, where more bars and restaurants have reopened than elsewhere in the world.

Any deal for Distell would see Heineken chief executive officer Dolf van den Brink, who took charge last June, accelerate the decades-long strategy of his predecessor Jean-Francois van Boxmeer. During his tenure, Van Boxmeer sought to tap growth opportunities in Africa, investing hundreds of millions of euros in promising markets such as the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and South Africa.

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