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September 2, 2020

Kirin ‘re-starts sale of Lion dairy unit’

The Japanese group has reportedly made a decision on the future of the Lion dairy business that had been set for sale to China's Mengniu before the deal was scrapped.

By Dean Best

Kirin Holdings has reportedly decided to resume plans to sell its Lion Dairy & Drinks business, an asset in Australia that was set to be sold to China Mengniu Dairy Co. before the deal was called off last week.

Citing unnamed sources, Bloomberg said Kirin has re-started communication with potential suitors for the business, which includes the Dairy Farmers and Pura brands.

A Kirin representative told the news outlet it is considering the most suitable option, including a sale or retaining the business.

Last week, Kirin and Mengniu agreed to scrap a deal for the assets they had agreed in November. 

The proposed transaction had been given the green light by Australia’s competition regulator in February. However, amid increasingly strained relations between China and Australia, Kirin said approval from Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board was “unlikely to be forthcoming at this time”.

In a statement on Tuesday after the announcements by Kirin and Mengniu, Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he had been advised the two companies had “mutually agreed to not proceed with the sale process”, adding: “This follows the communication of my preliminary view to Mengniu Dairy that the proposed acquisition would be contrary to the national interest.”

In the past, Lion Dairy & Drinks has reportedly attracted interest from Australian food manufacturer Bega Cheese, Japanese food and drinks major Asahi Group Holdings and private-equity firm Pacific Equity Partners.

Since the end of Kirin’s deal with Mengniu, Bega has indicated it could be interested in buying Lion Dairy & Drinks.

The Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday Bega had appointed advisers to help the company weigh up a move for the assets.

Bega worked with corporate advisers Kidder Williams and law firm Addisons in 2018 when the assets first came on the market. Approached by just-food on Thursday, Kidder Williams co-founder David Williams declined to comment.

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