Lucozade and Ribena sold to Suntory for £1.35bn

The chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline says the deal is good for employees

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The Lucozade and Ribena drinks brands have been sold by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to Japanese firm Suntory for £1.35bn.

Suntory already owns beverage firm Orangina Schweppes, and the deal is expected to help it expand into new markets.

The deal was widely expected after Suntory was reported to be in talks with GSK last week.

GSK chose to get rid of the well-known UK brands after deciding to focus on its core pharmaceuticals business.

Ribena and Lucozade saw combined sales totalling about £500m last year, but GSK decided to offload the brands in April following a strategic review.

In a statement, David Redfern, GSK's chief strategy officer said: "Lucozade and Ribena are iconic brands that have made a huge contribution to GSK over the years, but now is the right time to sell them as we increase the focus of our consumer healthcare business."

Ribena and Lucozade bottles Ribena and Lucozade date back to the 1920s and 30s

Speaking to the BBC Mr Redfern sought to reassure staff at the two businsses: "They (Suntory) are very excited about the capabilities in Lucozade and Ribena, particularly the management team, the 700 employees and the manufacturing site at Coleford in the Forest of Dean. They are very keen to retain all of that and those people."

Global expansion

Although well-known in the UK, both brands are less recognised abroad, particularly in the emerging economies where GSK sees its growth markets.

Ribena first went on sale in the 1930s, while Lucozade dates back to 1927. Both are made in the UK in Coleford, Gloucestershire.

GSK said the "vast majority" of employees at the site and those working on Lucozade and Ribena in commercial and research and development functions will be offered transfers to Suntory.

Suntory has sought to expand globally in recent years from its base in Japan, where it has seen sluggish growth in sales.

It established its presence in Europe just four years ago with its purchase of Orangina Schweppes for 2.6bn euros (£2.2bn).

The purchase of Ribena and Lucozade pre-empted a possible auction of the brands, with private equity firms, such as Blackstone and Lion Capital, and Irn-Bru maker AG Barr all reported to be considering bids.

Suntory was helped by a flotation on the stock market earlier this year that raised $4bn (£2.6bn).

GSK said it expected the sale to be completed by the end of the year.

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