Lion may splash out on distiller

Lion Nathan, Australia’s biggest brewers, may bid for New Zealand’s Independent Distillers Group in an attempt to boost sales of spirits and pre-mixed drinks as beer sales stall.

Lion Nathan’s Rob Murray wants to attract younger consumers who are switching from beer to sweeter drinks, such as spirits mixed with cola or lemonade.

In New Zealand, Independent has about two-thirds of the pre-mixed drinks market.

Lion Nathan might have to sell some New Zealand assets if it bid for Independent, because its leading position in beer and imported spirits might raise competition issues, money manager Matt Hoult said.

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