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Suntory considers merging with Kirin

JAPAN'S top two beverage makers, Kirin and Suntory, are considering merging operations, a Suntory spokesman said yesterday.

A merger of the two would create the world's fifth-largest food company by sales, just behind Kraft Foods Inc and PepsiCo Inc, the Nikkei business newspaper reported.

It would also help the companies overcome a saturated domestic market with an aging population and compete more strongly with large international brands.

"A merger is one possibility we are considering," said Kuzaki Kitahara, a spokesman for Suntory Holdings Ltd.

Kirin Holdings Co said in a news release that it already cooperates with Suntory in areas such as distribution and procurement, but it said nothing concrete had been decided about a merger.

Privately held Suntory is well known for its whisky and beer products.

Kirin, Japan's largest food and beverage company, is best known domestically as a beer and soft drink producer. It also owns major food and alcohol producers in Australia and throughout Asia.

Kirin shot up 7.8 percent to 1,392 yen (US$15.10) yesterday in Tokyo, while the Nikkei average dropped 236.95 points, or 2.6 percent, to 9,050.33, its lowest finish since May 18.


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