January 14, 2014 in Business

Jim Beam maker being sold to Japan’s Suntory

Associated Press
Associated Press photo

This 2012 photo shows the Jim Beam visitors center at its central distillery in Clermont, Ky.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK – The maker of classic American whiskeys Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark has agreed to be acquired by a Japanese company in a $13.62 billion deal that would create the third-largest global premium spirits business.

Shares of Beam Inc. rose 24 percent on Monday after it said it agreed to be purchased by Suntory Holdings Ltd., a Japanese beverage company. The combined company would have annual sales of more than $4.3 billion.

It comes at a time when the taste for bourbon – a type of American whiskey that is made primarily of corn – continues to grow domestically and abroad.

In the U.S., sales volume for bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys such as Jack Daniels has grown 26 percent over the past decade, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, an industry group. Exports of U.S. whiskeys has grown to roughly $1 billion last year, more than double what it was a decade ago.

Demand is so robust that Beam last year even considered reducing the alcohol content for Maker’s Mark because of a supply shortage. The company scrapped the idea after a backlash by fans of the higher-end bourbon.

A Beam spokesman said for now, the deal will result in few changes for Beam’s bourbons.

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