(Adds European Commission declined to comment, details)
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, April 7 Japanese company Suntory
Holdings Ltd will win unconditional European Union
approval for its $13.6 billion offer for U.S. peer Beam Inc
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 and Asahi Group Holdings
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)