Japanese group, in biggest-ever buy, picks up Geneva’s United Coffee

Source: United Coffee in Geneva

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – UCC, the leader of Japan’s coffee market, is buying one of Europe’s largest independent coffee suppliers, United Coffee of Geneva. The price of the sale is 50 billion yen ($617 million), reports Bloomberg, which says the move “enables UCC to enter Europe for the first time and will bring the company’s sales from overseas markets to about 20 percent from 3 percent.”

The sale is expected to be finalized in the second half of 2012, says UCC in a mailed press release.The sale is being handled through the CapVest private equity fund.

The new company will be the fifth largest in the world. UCC is a family company, remaining in the hands of the founding family, with 3,700 employees and turnover of euros 2.6 billion. It recently decided to re-centre its activities on the coffee industry to become a world-scale player. It was the first Japanese company to adopt integrated production, from plantation to finished product. It has coffee plantations in Hawaii and Jamaica and is one of the largest suppliers to consumers and the restaurant industry.

United Coffee was founded in 1818 and it describes itself as “one of Europe’s largest coffee roasters, producing and distributing a wide range of coffee, coffee machines and related services through retail and out-of-home distribution channels, which includes hotels, restaurants and cafés.”

United Coffee moved to Geneva in July 2010. It is one of the companies that has taken  up the war against food giant Nestle, which is protecting its coffee capsule business with a fleet of patents, backed by lawsuits.

Background:Unlocking a Captive Market: The Battle to Unseat the Nespresso“, Wharton University, June 2011