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News Briefs for June 14, 2012

June 14, 2012

•Credit Suisse has invested $11.1 million in Indian drinks giant United Spirits Ltd. (USL), according to local press reports. Shares of USL jumped yesterday on reports that top executive Vijay Mallya is exploring a deal to sell as much as 27% of the company to Diageo to help reduce debt in USL parent company UB Group, which has been held down by its troubled Kingfisher Airlines arm. Mallya and Diageo have discussed similar deals in recent years, however, and have failed to come to terms on USL’s valuation. USL is also rumored to be shopping a 49% stake in its Whyte & Mackay unit, specializing in Scotch whisky, which it purchased for $1.2 billion in 2007. While doing much of its business at sub-premium prices, USL remains the world’s second-largest spirits company by volume, after Diageo, selling 121 million cases in 2011, according to Impact Databank.

•Pernod Ricard will close one of its Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand-based wineries by the end of June. The company told local media that Hawke’s Bay Winery had become nonessential, due primarily to Pernod’s sale of several New Zealand wine brands—including Lindauer—to Lion Nathan and Indevin in October 2010. Pernod now plans to inject investments into its nearby Church Road Winery. In addition to Hawke’s Bay, Pernod Ricard sources wine from Auckland, Gisborne, Marlborough, Waipara and Central Otago. The company’s New Zealand wine portfolio includes the Church Road, Stoneleigh, Boundary Vineyards and Longridge brands, as well as Brancott Estate, the fifth-largest New Zealand wine brand in the U.S. at over 150,000 cases.

•Having eliminated a key tax exemption for local craft brewers in March, New York state is now set implement a new tax credit, reports the Associated Press. The tax exemption was scuttled due to a lawsuit from Massachusetts-based craft brewer Shelton Brothers, which argued that a state exemption of 12 cents per gallon and New York City exemption of 14 cents per gallon gave in-state brewers an unfair advantage against out-of-state competitors who did not receive such benefits. The new plan would grant New York craft brewers equivalent tax credits to offset the exemption loss. The measures are expected to be voted into law by June 21. New York brewers have argued that the lost exemptions could cost them anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million each year.

•Del Frisco’s Grille is set to open its new Washington, D.C. location on July 14. The new restaurant, located on Pennsylvania Ave., will be under the direction of executive chef Rob Klink and will feature an indoor/outdoor bar and 100-seat patio. The new unit will offer over 400 wines, cocktails and a selection of local beers on tap. Southlake, Texas-based Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group owns and operates 32 restaurants across the country, including Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Del Frisco’s Grille and Sullivan’s Steakhouse. The group recently opened a Del Frisco’s Grille on June 9 in Phoenix and plans to open another this fall in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead neighborhood.

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