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London calling: its Pride is turning Japanese – Brexit brings no quench of thirst for oversees brewers.

January 25, 2019

Author - Christian Wilson

A number of years ago I took the first train out of a misty pre-dawn Penzance to spend the day negotiating the sale of a regional business and rising star of the drinks industry to Fullers. It was one of the most enjoyable days of my legal career. Talks were good natured, with all parties keen to find compromise and settle a sensible deal inside the hallowed boardroom at the home of London Pride. The Thames meandered slowly past the windows of the illustrious Chiswick Brewery as the Shires of the drays were returned to their stables and the terms of our deal were put to bed.

Fullers is now to be taken into Japanese ownership. A deal that would no doubt have taken a good deal of soul searching by the board of the Company to let the Company move into international ownership. But this is not surprising, the appetite for international buyers into the UK remains strong and the weakness of the pound does make British companies even more appealing. This deal based on exchange rates would have cost Asahi another 40 million Yen in mid 2016 – that’s roughly 10% more, before the Referendum. Not that anyone is suggesting that this sale is down to price, Asahi have been seeking major European opportunities over the last few years as it expands its portfolio.

But in our experience that hit to the exchange rate has, to a degree, offset the nervousness associated with Brexit.  Added to that, many European companies have sought a foothold in the UK to guard against a no deal Brexit and ironically enough to perhaps enjoy the potential (a word I use guardedly) of trade deals between the UK and the rest of the world. You have to admire our European friends for really knowing how to have their cake and eat it! It’s strange to see that British companies are often castigated by the press for considering opening European subsidiaries to do the same.

But despite what many may see as the loss of the iconic brewery to international owners, there’s no need to drown one’s sorrow, instead celebrate the huge resurgence in Craft Ales which have never been in more demand and are growing exponentially. If in doubt, look at the shelves of your local supermarket or better still the number of fundraises for microbreweries on any one of the crowd investment platforms. So, while London’s Pride may now be the toast of Tokyo,  we need not rue the changing times.

Stephens Scown’s corporate team are ranked number 1 in Chambers Guide to the Legal profession and top tier in Legal 500. Christian Wilson is a partner and head of the Cornwall corporate team at Stephens Scown. If you have any queries please contact Christian on 01872 265100, by email solicitors@stephens-scown.co.uk

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