Diageo Buys a Stake in India's United Spirits for $2.1B

By IndustrialsFOXBusiness

Diageo (NYSE:DEO), the world’s biggest spirits maker, secured a $2.1 billion deal on Friday to nab a 53.4% stake in India’s United Spirits, deepening its presence in the rapidly growing Indian market.

The controlling stake in India’s biggest liquor company makes the country Diageo’s second-biggest market after the U.S. and puts it one step closer to achieving a goal of deriving half of its revenue from emerging markets by 2015.

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Sales of higher-quality liquors, particularly those of vodka, have been soaring in India as middle class wages there continue to rise.

“I am delighted at the opportunity Diageo has to be part of India’s large and growing local spirits market,” Diageo CEO Paul Walsh said in a statement. “We will be well positioned to take the growth opportunities presented by a spirits market where growth is driven by the increasing number of middle class consumers.”

The two-part acquisition will require the London-based maker of Johnnie Walker and Guinness to initially acquire a 27.4% stake in United Spirits, 19.3% of which will come from holding companies and trusts owned by Mallya, with the remaining deriving from new stock issued for 1,440 rupees each ($26.42), a premium of about 7% to United Spirits’ closing price on Thursday.

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Diageo will later make an open offer to shareholders for another 26% stake.

Indian liquor mogul Vijay Mallya will remain chairman of United Spirits and will work with Diageo to build the business to meet growing demand in India.

The deal remains subject to a number of customary closing and antitrust approvals. Diageo said it will fund the acquisition using cash on hand and debt.