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GSK sells Lucozade and Ribena to Japanese

Japan's Suntory Beverage and Food is to buy GlaxoSmith-Kline's Lucozade and Ribena brands for £1.35bn (€1.6bn) to help it expand into new markets.

The deal had been expected since people close to the process said that Suntory – best known for beer and Yamazaki whiskey – was in advanced talks on a purchase that would pre-empt an auction of the British drinks.

Japan's second-largest drinks maker by sales after the local arm of Coca-Cola Co has plenty of cash after raising $4bn in a stock-market flotation in June.

It was always the most likely buyer for the brands after GSK announced plans for their disposal in April.

The energy and blackcurrant drinks are popular in Britain but from GSK's point of view lack global reach, especially in the big emerging markets that are becoming the focus of the British drugmaker's consumer health business.

For Suntory, however, they offer a growth opportunity to counter sluggish demand at home.

One person at a private equity firm which had considered a rival bid, said Suntory was paying "a very hefty price", explaining GSK's willingness to allow it to pre-empt an auction.

Lucozade and Ribena have combined annual sales of just over £500m. (Reuters)

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