EU to clear $13.6 billion Suntory, Beam deal without conditions: source

BRUSSELS Mon Apr 7, 2014 10:33am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Japanese company Suntory Holdings Ltd SUNTH.UL will win unconditional European Union approval for its $13.6 billion offer for U.S. peer Beam Inc BEAM.N to become the world's third-largest spirits producer, a source said on Monday.

The deal brings together Beam's Jim Beam and Maker's Mark bourbons, Courvoisier cognac and Sauza tequila with Suntory's Yamazaki, Hakushu, Hibiki and Kakubin Japanese whiskies, Bowmore Scotch whisky and Midori liqueur.

Suntory, which makes more than 90 percent of its business in Japan, and other Japanese spirits makers are seeking overseas growth to offset the shrinking domestic market as the population ages. Beam is the No. 4 premium spirits company in the world.

The deal will boost Suntory's share of the U.S. market to 11 percent from less than 1 percent, and give it access to a stronger distribution network in key emerging markets like India, Russia and Brazil.

Rivals Kirin Holdings (2503.T) and Asahi Group Holdings (2502.T) have also made foreign purchases in recent years.

The European Commission has been examining the deal since last month and has set an April 24 deadline for its decision.

"It's expected to be unconditional clearance," said the source who has direct knowledge of the case.

Commission spokesman for competition policy, Antoine Colombani, declined to comment. U.S. regulators nodded the deal through in early March.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)

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