Coca-Cola buys coffee chain Costa for $5.1 billion

Coca-Cola on August 31, 2018 said it had agreed to buy global coffee chain Costa from its owner Whitbread for $5.1 billion. (File/AFP)
Updated 31 August 2018

Coca-Cola buys coffee chain Costa for $5.1 billion

LONDON: Coca-Cola on Friday said it had agreed to buy international coffee chain Costa from its UK owner Whitbread, in a deal that gives the beverages behemoth its first global coffee brand.
“Hot beverages is one of the few remaining segments of the total beverage landscape where Coca-Cola does not have a global brand. Costa gives us access to this market through a strong coffee platform,” Coca-Cola chief executive James Quincey said in a joint statement.
The deal for £3.9 billion ($5.1 billion, 4.3 billion euros) comes as consumer demand for conventional carbonated drinks shrinks in the US and other markets owing to health and obesity concerns.
Earlier in August, Coca-Cola’s arch-rival PepsiCo. struck a deal to buy Israeli company SodaStream for $3.2 billion — in a pitch to consumers concerned about mounting waste from soda cans and plastics in landfills worldwide.
SodaStream makes machines that carbonate home tap water.
Coca-Cola’s purchase adds to its Georgia coffee brand in Japan and the US group’s coffee products in other countries.
“Costa also provides Coca-Cola with strong expertise across the coffee supply chain, including sourcing, vending and distribution,” the soft drinks giant added.
Coca-Cola hopes to close the deal in the first half of next year, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals.
The announcement comes three days after Nespresso maker Nestle said it sealed a deal to market the products of US coffee giant Starbucks around the world, outside of its cafes.
Following pressure from activist shareholders, Whitbread revealed in April that it would spin off Costa, leaving it to concentrate on its hotel chain Premier Inn.
Whitbread was forced to act after US group Elliott became its biggest shareholder with a six percent stake.

“The announcement today represents a substantial premium to the value that would have been created through the demerger of the business and we expect to return a significant majority of net proceeds to shareholders,” Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said in the statement.
“Whitbread will also reduce debt and make a contribution to its pension fund, which will provide additional headroom for the expansion of Premier Inn.”
Whitbread’s share price was up almost 16 percent to £46.56 following the announcement, while London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index on which it trades was down 0.3 percent.
“This is a bitter sweet moment for Whitbread investors,” noted Nicholas Hyett, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
“On the one hand £3.9 billion is an undeniably rich valuation and likely far better than Costa could achieve as an independently listed company, valuing its earnings higher than those of the mighty Starbucks.
“On the other, Costa has long been the jewel in Whitbread’s crown and some will be sad to see it go at any price, especially given the growth potential in China and elsewhere.”
Whitbread bought Costa in 1995 from founders Sergio and Bruno Costa and presently runs about 2,400 stores in the UK and some 1,400 around the world.
Costa also operates more than 8,000 Costa Express self-serve machines in eight countries, as well as placing its products in supermarkets.
Premier Inn has 785 hotels in the UK and a sprinkling of others in Germany and the Middle East.


IMF experts visit Lebanon amid worsening economic crisis

Updated 20 February 2020

IMF experts visit Lebanon amid worsening economic crisis

  • IMF team will provide broad technical advice
  • Lebanon has not requested IMF financial assistance

BEIRUT: A team of IMF experts met Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday at the start of a visit to provide Lebanon with advice on tackling a deepening financial and economic crisis, an official Lebanese source said.

The IMF has said the team will visit until Feb. 23 and provide broad technical advice. Lebanon has not requested financial assistance from the Fund.

The long-brewing economic crisis spiraled last year as capital flows into the country slowed and protests erupted against the ruling elite over decades of corruption and bad governance.

Diab’s government, which took office last month, must decide what to do about upcoming debt payments, notably a $1.2 billion dollar-denominated sovereign bond due on March 9.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun meanwhile said on Thursday measures would be taken to hold to account all those who contributed to Lebanon’s financial crisis through illegal actions be they transfers abroad, manipulation of Eurobonds or other acts.

“There is information that we are still in need of with regards to the banking situation. There are measures that we will take to hold to account all who participated in bringing the crisis to where it is,” Aoun said, according to his Twitter account.

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One of Lebanon’s most influential politicians, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, said on Wednesday that debt restructuring was the best solution for looming maturities.

Lebanon will on Friday review proposals from firms bidding to give it financial and legal advice on its options, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The government aims to take a quick decision on who to appoint, the source said.

So far, firms bidding to be Lebanon’s legal adviser are Dechert, Cleary Gottlieb, and White and Case, the source said.

Lebanon has issued requests for proposals to seven firms to provide it with financial advice.

The government on Wednesday formed a committee tasked with preparing an economic recovery plan that includes ministers, government officials, a central bank representative and economists, according to a copy of a decree seen by Reuters.