(Adds statement from PEP and Unitas)
SYDNEY Feb 14 Japanese brewer Asahi Group
Holdings Ltd is suing Pacific Equity Partners and
Unitas Capital Pte Ltd, alleging they inflated the earnings of
the Independent Liquor business it bought in 2011 for NZ$1.5
billion ($1.3 billion).
PEP and Unitas rejected the claims, saying in a joint
statement they were untrue and unfounded.
Individual directors and investment funds controlled by the
two private equity firms are also targeted by the legal action
filed by Asahi Holdings Australia and Independent Liquor New
Zealand, both Japanese registered subsidiaries of Asahi Group,
in Australia's Federal Court.
Asahi, the maker of Japan's top-selling "Super Dry" beer, is
seeking unspecified damages for losses after an internal
investigation uncovered what the company claims was misleading
and deceptive conduct.
"It is very disappointing that PEP and Unitas have engaged
in this misconduct," Asahi Holdings Australia Managing Director
Atsushi Katsuki said in an emailed statement.
"We conducted due diligence thoroughly and in good faith and
relied on the figures provided to us," he added. "We are seeking
maximum recovery of our loss and we have commenced legal
proceedings for this purpose."
Asahi bought Flavoured Beverage Group Holdings Ltd, the
parent company of Independent Liquor, from PEP and Unitas when
Japanese brewers were on a spending spree across Asia and
The acquisition of Independent Liquor, a New Zealand-based
firm which also operates in Australia and the U.S. and is known
for its "Woodstock Bourbon" and "Vodka Cruiser" brands, was part
of Asahi's bid to boost revenue growth amid a shrinking beer
market in Japan.
But the timing of the deal coincided with a slump in sales
of pre-mixed spirits following the Australian government's
decision to increase taxes on alcopops to curb underage
drinking, which led to higher shelf prices.
PEP, Australia's largest buyout firm, and Unitas said Asahi
had breached the sale contract by taking legal action and the
pair were considering filing a counter lawsuit for damages in
"The allegations foreshadowed by Asahi are completely untrue
and unfounded," they said in a joint emailed statement. "Asahi
and its team of expert advisers were given full access to
information and management during a three month due diligence
($1 = 1.1885 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting By Jane Wardell; Editing by Richard Pullin and