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Japan's Asahi sues over New Zealand firm purchase


Japanese brewing giant Asahi launched legal action in Australia Thursday alleging it fell victim to "deceptive and misleading conduct" when it bought New Zealand's Independent Liquor in 2011.

Asahi's Australian subsidiary said it was seeking damages from two private equity firms over the NZ$1.53 billion ($1.3 billion) takeover, the biggest-ever acquisition by the brewer of the popular "Super Dry" brand.

It said the action against Australia-based Pacific Equity Partners (PEP) and Unitas Capital of Hong Kong followed in-depth investigations of Independent Liquor's books after the sale was completed.

In a statement, it said the lawsuit alleged "that PEP and Unitas engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by making false representations as to the financial position of FBGHL (now known as Independent Liquor)".

The company claimed the takeover target's earnings were significantly inflated during the sale and due diligence process.

"It is very disappointing that PEP and Unitas have engaged in this misconduct," Asahi Holdings (Australia) managing director Atsushi Katsuki said, adding that the company was seeking "maximum recovery for our loss".

Asahi, which bought the New Zealand firm as part of a push into foreign markets to offset slow domestic sales, did not say how much it was seeking from the private equity firms.

Katsuki said Asahi remained committed to Independent Liquor, New Zealand's leading ready-to-drink cocktails maker and a major player in the Australian market.

"It is business as usual at Independent Liquor and we remain focused on ensuring that we consistently deliver the highest quality products to our customers," he said.

Neither PEP nor Unitas were available to comment on the lawsuit, which was launched in the Federal Court in Melbourne.