ZIMBABWE Stock Exchange-listed Delta Beverages has acquired a controlling stake in Schweppes Zimbabwe, businessdigest has established.
The deal was sealed two weeks ago for an as yet unascertained value.
Analysts said the deal could give Delta further comfort in the beverage market after acquiring its former competitor in soft drink manufacturing industry.Â Delta already controls over 80% of the soft drinks market in the country.
The acquisition of Schweppes comes at a time when Delta is reportedly concluding the sale of its 40% stake in Ariston Holding Ltd, shares the group acquired three years ago in order to tap into the horticultural concernâ€™s rich foreign currency reserves in the wake of acute foreign exchange shortages in the country.
Analysts said Deltaâ€™s move on Schweppes is a reflection that the company is refocusing its business around traditional core beverages business. Schweppes will also bring the famous Mazoe Orange drink to the Delta stable, among other products.
Delta a few years ago unbundled a number of companies to unlock value for shareholders and concentrate on its beverages and beer business but an economic meltdown characterised by foreign currency shortages forced management to make a takeover bid in Ariston.
Efforts to reach Delta chief executive officer Joe Mutizwa proved fruitless, but well placed sources said the deal was concluded a fortnight ago.
â€œDelta acquired Schweppes two week ago. I am sure they are waiting for the right time to announce, but the deal was sealed,â€ one of the sources said.
Zimbabwean-born South Africa businessman Mutumwa Mawere bought 100% of Schweppes Zimbabwe capital from the Coca-Cola group for US$5 million in 2004, but allegations of externalisation of foreign currency emerged against him triggering a wholesale nationalisation of his businesses.
According to the sources, Delta clinched the deal ahead of other contenders who had been eyeing the company.
Meanwhile, Ariston chief Kumbirai Katsande is reportedly heading a management consortium to buy Deltaâ€™s US$3,2 million stake in the horticultural company.
Sources close to the deal said Katsande and some of the groupâ€™s senior executives were on the verge of clinching a 40% Delta holds in Ariston.Delta made an offer to acquire 60% of Aristonâ€™s total issued share in 2006 but managed to snap 40%. Delta, sources said, resolved to dispose of its equity in Ariston to concentrate on its beer and carbonated drinks manufacturing.Â Â Â Â
Katsande this week could neither confirm nor deny the management move to acquire the Delta stake.
Ariston is a horticultural firm and is organised in five operating divisions: Southdown Estates, which is engaged in growing and manufacture of tea, coffee, macadamia nuts and bananas; Claremont Estates â€“â€“ growing of pome and stone fruit, breeder protected field flowers and trout; Kent Estate â€“â€“ growing of roses, poultry and livestock; Favco â€“â€“ distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the Capital Tea Company â€“â€“ packaging and distribution of tea and coffee.
BY CHRIS MURONZI