Diageo discusses expansion into US brands with Japanese brewer

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JOHNNIE Walker-owner Diageo has held talks about grabbing a slice of US-based bourbon whisky producer Beam.

The drinks giant, which also owns Guinness and Smirnoff, is said to have held discussions with Japanese brewer Suntory about striking a $10 billion (£6.2bn) deal to acquire some of Beam’s brands, which include Jim Beam bourbon.

Diageo, which trades in 180 markets, is not believed to have made a formal offer yet and is not in current talks with Beam.

The brand dates back to 1788 when Jacob Beam developed bourbon in Kentucky. Last year, Beam’s former parent company, Fortune Brands, split itself into two US-listed companies – Fortune Brands Home & Security and Beam Inc.

Any deal would be a departure from Diageo’s strategy to move into emerging markets amid falling UK sales. Last month, the London-based group announced it was targeting a thirst for spirits among the Indian middle classes by taking a stake in Asian drinks giant United Spirits.

Suntory, which owns Japanese whisky brand Yamazaki, is understood to have spoken to other parties about a joint bid since it ended talks with Diageo in the summer. Diageo is also believed to have had discussions with other companies, including private equity firms.