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Suntory unit shares rise 1.45% in Tokyo debut

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Shares in Suntory's food-and-beverage unit closed 1.45 percent higher on their Tokyo debut Wednesday, after the Japanese drinks giant raised about $3.9 billion in the world's second-biggest initial public offering this year.

The firm, which owns the Orangina brand and distributes a range of foreign products in Japan including Pepsi and Jim Beam bourbon, spun off the lucrative unit as it eyes more foreign acquisitions.

The sale followed a string of overseas deals aimed at offsetting a shrinking market at home.

At the close, Suntory Beverage & Food sat at 3,145 yen, up from its IPO price of 3,100 yen. The relatively modest gains are more impressive given the fact the broader Nikkei share index was down 0.31 percent.

The unit, which produces non-alcoholic drinks, last year reported sales of 992.1 billion yen, or more than half of the Suntory group's 1.85 trillion yen in revenue.

Some of the IPO proceeds will be used to pay off short-term bank loans while the rest is earmarked for "strategic domestic and international investments aimed at growing the company", the subsidiary has said.

The founding family of Osaka-based Suntory, which was established in 1899, retains a stake of nearly 90 percent. The firm is one of Japan's biggest brewers and whisky makers.

Its eponymous whisky brand was featured in the 2003 Bill Murray film "Lost in Translation" in which he played an ageing actor who stars in commercials for the company.

Suntory is well known in Japan for its print and television advertisements including those starring American actor Tommy Lee Jones. Its domestic rivals include Kirin Holdings and Asahi Group.

The IPO is the largest in Tokyo since Japan Airlines' $8.5 billion offer last year. It is also the second-biggest this year globally after Brazil's BB Seguridade Participacoes SA's $5.0 billion offering in April, according to data provider Dealogic.

Last month, the privately held firm said it sold about 125 million shares in its key unit. The pricing was at the low end of a range announced in May, with the firm citing market turbulence.

Tokyo's stock market, one of the world's best performers this year, has seen wild volatility since the Nikkei 225 index hit a five-year high in late May.

It has recently bounced off lows that had shaved as much as 20 percent from its peak price as stronger Japanese economic data have helped buoy investor sentiment.

Three years ago, Suntory scrapped plans to merge with Kirin to create one of the world's largest beer and soft-drink companies, citing disagreements over a possible listing.

Major Japanese beverage makers have aggressively sought to expand abroad in recent years to offset their shrinking domestic market, while a strong yen made the foreign shopping spree relatively cheaper.

Suntory said last year it would form a joint venture with Chinese brewer Tsingtao to expand its reach in the world's biggest beer market.

It has also said it would acquire a 51-percent stake in Indian food and drink maker Narang Group, while in 2009 Suntory bought Europe's Orangina Schweppes Group for about $3.3 billion.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130703/suntory-unit-shares-rise-145-tokyo-debut