China’s Hillhouse said to near deal to buy iconic Scotch brand Loch Lomond

Image: Reuters

Hillhouse Capital is close to a deal to acquire a majority stake in iconic Scottish whisky maker Loch Lomond Distillers Ltd. to expand its portfolio of consumer brands, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Chinese investment firm is in advanced talks to buy Loch Lomond along with the distiller’s management, which will hold a significant minority stake, the people said. A deal would give the business an equity value of $300 million to $400 million, they said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private.

An agreement could be announced as soon as Thursday, the people said. Loch Lomond, with its first distillery site dates back to 1814, was bought by London-based Exponent Private Equity in 2014 for an undisclosed amount. The distiller is famous for its single-malt and single-grain Scotch.

Representatives for Hillhouse, Loch Lomond and Exponent declined to comment.

Hillhouse’s existing investments in the consumer industry include pet food company Gimborn and a Chinese joint venture with Peet’s Coffee. It plans expand Loch Lomond in other parts of the world such as Asia, where whisky has become more popular, the people said. The investment firm, founded by Zhang Lei with money from the Yale University endowment, is also backer of companies such as Tencent Holdings Ltd. and GrabTaxi Holdings Pte.

Spirit companies in the U.K. have been steadily changing hands in recent years, attracting international buyers with a more globalized distribution network.

In 2017, Pernod Ricard SA sold its Glenallachie distillery to a consortium of investors including Billy Walker. A year earlier, Jack Daniel’s whiskey maker Brown-Forman Corp. purchased the BenRiach single-malt distillery. Diageo Plc’s United Spirits Ltd. unit agreed to sell its Whyte & Mackay spirits business to Philippines-based Emperador Inc. in 2014.

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
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