GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has put up Lucozade and Ribena, the soft drinks brands for sale and the iconic British brands have given rise to a £1bn-plus bidding war. Although an auction is not likely to be launched for some months, speculations are rife about who could turn out to be the winner of the bid. One theory suggests that Blackstone, the American private equity giant, may team up with Lion Capital, the firm behind GHD and All Saints, with ex-Barcadi boss Javier Ferrán taking the role of chairman.
The two firms worked together on the buy-out of Orangina before selling the company to Japan’s Suntory in a €2.6bn (£2.3bn) deal. However, Lion Capital is currently restricted in the amount of money it can invest because of the limited amount of capital left in its fund. Permira, KKR, Bain and CVC are also in the running for the bid. But drinks-maker Britvic, which had been touted as the most likely winning bidder, is thought to be constrained by the likely price tag as well as potential competition issues.
Corporate buyers like Suntory and Nestle who would be able to leverage significant synergies from their global infrastructure network, also emerge in the list of potential bidders. Although GSK has not announced the appointment of a bank to run the auction, insiders suggest consumer rainmaker Blair Effron at boutique bank Centreview is the most likely choice.
Lucozade was the second-biggest soft drinks brand in the UK last year, with two thirds of its sales home grown and the rest coming from Nigeria, Singapore and a fledgling business in China. In February, it was reported that the the brands’ combined sales were £750m but that they were kept away from the core strategy of GSK’s £26bn pharmaceuticals empire.