Japanese Owners Give Reassurance Over Brewery Future

Say they will continue to brew beers in Chiswick the 'home of London Pride'

Fuller's Griffin Brewery in Chiswick
Fuller's Griffin Brewery in Chiswick

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The Asahi Group, who this week acquired the brewing business of Fuller’s have given assurances over the future of the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick.

The shock announcement of the sale led to speculation that a redevelopment of the site. When we asked the Japanese company about their plans for the brewery their spokesperson told us, “Once this acquisition has been approved by all parties, we will continue to brew beers at the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick. It is, and always has been, the home of London Pride.”

The chief executive of Fuller’s described Asahi Group as an ‘appropriate custodian’ of the Griffin Brewery. When we asked Fuller’s to comment in more detail on the future of the site they said they were constrained by stock exchange rules and could not give out information that was not in the documentation released to shareholders.

Asahi are paying £250 million for the brewing and distribution arms of Fuller’s including the Chiswick brewery. Asahi has also acquired the brands of the business including ‘London Pride’ and ‘Chiswick’. Ownership of the licensed trademarks will be retained by Fuller’s. The disposal is expected to complete in the first half of 2019.

In a statement to investors the company said, “The Board welcomes the fact that Asahi also upholds Fuller’s key values of a genuine commitment to brewing excellence and has a proven track record as a long-term steward of iconic brands making them an ideal strategic partner to the Fuller’s pubs and hotels business in the future. “

Following completion of the proposed disposal, Fuller’s will be a pub and hotel operator pursuing its previously stated strategy of running predominantly freehold sites. Fuller’s will form a strategic alliance with Asahi that will ensure continued access to the beer brands Fuller’s has always brewed.

The price of £250million includes the Griffin Brewery site and some City analysts have speculated that Asahi see more value in this as a property asset as opposed to a brewery. The development of the Stag Brewery across the river in Mortlake will ultimately be valued at over a billion pounds and, although the Griffin Brewery site is smaller, it has long been considered a prime site for the building of riverside properties.

Simon Emeny, Chief Executive of Fuller’s, appeared to be trying to allay these fears. In a statement issued with the announcement he said, “This deal secures the future of both parts of our business including protecting the heritage of the Griffin Brewery in Chiswick, which was particularly important to the Fuller’s Board. ”

He added, “Asahi, as a company recognised for brewing excellence, is an appropriate custodian of our rich brewing history and the Griffin Brewery, and will ensure the Fuller’s Beer Business brands will reach an even wider global audience.”

Best known for its Super Dry beer brand, Asahi has been significantly expanding its European assets focused its strategy on premium beers spending €10bn acquiring brands like Peroni and Grolsch. It is now Europe’s third-biggest beer group after a €7.3bn takeover of SABMiller’s eastern European brewing assets and paying €2.55bn for SAB’s western European brands in 2016.

Akiyoshi Koji, CEO of Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd, commented, “We have long admired the brewing business and exceptional beer brands that Fuller’s has built over the years and the high degree of respect it commands throughout the global beer industry. Fuller’s is one of the few brewers that show the same genuine commitment to brewing excellence and quality that we do. We strongly believe that the brands of the Beer Business, including London Pride, Frontier and Cornish Orchards among others, complement our premium portfolio in the UK market. In particular, London Pride is a fantastic brand with an illustrious heritage dating back to the 1950s and we are excited about its untapped international potential which Asahi has the scale and global network to unlock.”

Local MP Ruth Cadbury said that she was shocked by the news and that she was trying to find out more information.

‘‘I was as surprised as everyone about the news that Fullers would be selling their drinks, and brewery business. The historic brewery is an iconic part of Chiswick and many local people have worked there over generations. I’m seeking reassurances from Fullers that both the Brewery and the unique taste of London Pride will be kept.’’

January 27, 2019

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