Lion snaps up Russian juice maker(2)

The UK-based buyout firm, which specialises in branded consumer businesses, has bought Russian juice maker Nidan Soki as it nears the close of its second fund.

Buyout firm Lion Capital has made its first foray into Russia with the acquisition of Nidan Soki, a branded juice maker.

Terms were not disclosed, but last November executive director Olga Yeremeyeva said Nidan was considering a public offering that would value the business at between $600 million and $700 million (€507 million). The company recorded increased sales of about $270 million last year.

The Moscow-based business employs around 2500 people and is the third largest juice producer in Russia, with an 18 percent market share. Its brands, which include Moya Semya, Sokos and Champion, are benefiting from rapid growth in the Russian juice market, thanks to the steady rise in per capita income and the increasing popularity of healthier products.

Nidan founder and chairman Igor Shilov said Lion’s “breadth of experience in investing in and operating consumer businesses, particularly within the beverages sub-sector” made it the company’s preferred partner. The UK-based firm also owns Orangina Group, the former European beverages division of Cadbury Schweppes, which it bought alongside The Blackstone Group last year – an obvious strategic partner for Nidan.

It has been building its internal expertise in the sector. Javier Ferrán, the Lion partner who led the Nidan deal, previously spent 20 years at Bacardi Group, the drinks manufacturer, where he was president and chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In April the firm also hired Mary Minnick, a 20-year Coca-Cola veteran, as a partner in the firm – she was mostly recently the drinks giant’s executive vice president and president of marketing, strategy and innovation.

Ferrán said Nidan had: “an attractive portfolio of branded juice offerings with strong positions in one of the largest and fastest growing juice markets in the world.” Growth would come through new product innovation and expanded marketing and advertising activity, he said.

Lion span out of US parent Hicks Muse Tate & Furst in early 2005, raising an €820 million fund. Its second fund, which has a hard cap of €2 billion, is expected to close in the next few weeks, according to one potential investor.

Its other investments include breakfast cereal Weetabix and noodle bar chain Wagamama and Benelux retailer HEMA.

Goldman Sachs advised Lion and provided debt for the deal.