Money and Markets

Two private equity companies just made a half-a-billion rand bet on the future of Pepsi (and Jive, and Co-ee) in South Africa, sugar tax or no sugar tax

Business Insider SA
  • A private equity consortium plans a cash deal that will value bottling company Softbev at a minimum of R563 million – even though its losses recently saw its parent company write down its value.
  • Softbev bottles Pepsi and related brands, as well as low-cost competitors Coo-ee, Mirinda, and the Capri-Sun fruit drink.
  • The "Sugary Beverages Levy" – or sugar tax – that soft-drink makers dreaded for its potential impact on sales kicked in at the beginning of April.

A private equity consortium will pay a minimum of R233 million for its 41.4% in bottler Softbev, plastic packaging company Bowler Metcalf told its shareholders on Monday.

The deal values Softbev at a minimum of R563 million and up to R868 million, depending on its financial performance up to the middle of this year – just days after the sugar tax long dreaded by the fizzy-drinks industry kicked in.

Softbev has the exclusive licence to bottle Pepsi and related brands like Mountain Dew in South African and some neighbouring countries. It also makes the lower-profile, and lower-price brands Coo-ee, Jive, and Mirindi, plus assorted retailer store-brand drinks and fruit drink Capri-Sun.

Bowler Metcalf said it was selling its shares to a consortium controlled by Ethos Private Equity, which holds stakes in Twinsaver and House of Busby. Nedbank Private Equity and the management team of the buyer, The Beverage Company, are smaller shareholders.

They will pay cash for Softbev.

In 2017 Bowler Metcalf impaired its valuation of Softbev by more than R70 in one fell swoop. It later decried the "intensely competitive and sieged nature of the carbonated soft drinks (CSD) beverages industry in a difficult economy" plus higher sugar prices.

Improvements in Softbev's performance in the last six months of 2017 had "created an opportunity for a fair value disposal" it said on Monday afternoon.

The sugar tax, or the Sugary Beverages Levy/Health Promotion Levy as it is formally known, was implemented on April 1, just eight days before the Softbev deal was announced.

The Beverages Association told Parliament that tax would lead to tens of thousand of jobs being lost as the price of sugary drinks increased – and companies like Softbev suffered the consequences.

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