Coca-Cola's European bottler sweetens takeover offer for Aussie peer Amatil

(Reuters) – The European bottling arm of Coca-Cola has sweetened its final, binding takeover offer for Australian counterpart Coca-Cola Amatil by 75 cents per share, reflecting a jump in the company’s market value since an initial offer last year.

FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Coca-Cola are pictured during a presentation in Paris, France, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) said on Monday it was raising the offer by 6% to A$13.5 per share, valuing the Australian company at A$9.93 billion ($7.70 billion).

Shares in Coca-Cola Amatil, which have been gaining steadily since CCEP’s initial offer was made public in October, hit an eight-year high of A$13.41 in response.

Coca-Cola has long outsourced its bottling operations to separate regional operators. It owns 31% of Amatil and 19% of CCEP, which is now by far the largest by revenue, serving 13 countries in Western Europe. While the deal would unite two companies that bottle and distribute Coca-Cola drinks, providing scale, operating efficiencies and a larger geographic spread, it also provides CCEP with a platform for further consolidation in Asia.

Amatil said it backs the offer, which would be Australia’s biggest deal this year and comes after reports here that its major shareholders viewed the earlier offer of A$12.75 per share as too low.

The company’s preliminary full-year results in January forecast 2020 earnings before interest and taxes of A$550.7 million, 10% ahead of expectations, while also slashing debt, on the back of a strong Christmas in Australia and New Zealand.

Monday’s offer is subject to an independent expert concluding that the offer is “fair and reasonable”, but Jefferies analysts said CCEP was likely to seal the deal.

“We do not see a superior proposal emerging given the integrated nature of the franchise system,” the brokerage’s analyst Edward Mundy said.

CCEP said it would buy out 10.8% of Coca-Cola’s stake in Amatil in cash, but has not yet made any decision on acquiring the rest.

($1 = 1.2890 Australian dollars)

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