China's thirst for U.S. companies rises with coconut water
July 14, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT
The Chinese distributor of Red Bull is buying a stake in Vita Coco, the U.S.’s largest seller of coconut water.
The Chinese distributor of Red Bull is buying a stake in the maker of Vita Coco, the top seller of coconut water in the U.S., in the latest sign that China’s thirst for U.S. assets is far from quenched.
Vita Coco’s New York-based parent company, All Market, said Monday it is selling a 25% stake for roughly $166 million to Beijing-based Reignwood Group. Reignwood is the parent to Red Bull China, which bought the rights to distribute Red Bull in China from the Austrian energy drink company two decades ago.
The deal is the latest example of China’s M&A boom gobbling up U.S.-based targets, as companies there look to meet the demands of the country’s ever-expanding consumer market. Last year saw the largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a Chinese buyer with Shuanghui International’s $7.1 billion purchase of Virginia-based pork producer Smithfield Foods. Beijing-based tech outfit Lenovo has also been an active shopper in the U.S., having announced its deal to buy Motorola Mobility from Google GOOG 0.75% for about $2.9 billion earlier this year. Lenovo also recently got approval from Chinese regulators to move ahead with its planned $2.3 billion acquisition of IBM’s IBM 1.19% computer servers business.
Red Bull China’s Vita Coco stake purchase values All Market, founded in 2004, at $665 million. The deal gives Red Bull China the right to market Vita Coco in the world’s second largest economy starting next year.
The Chinese company is looking to expand its drink offerings and tap into the growing market for coconut water by bringing the trendy product to the world’s largest population. In roughly a decade, Vita Coco has grown to control about 40% of the U.S. market for coconut water, which saw sales around $500 million last year, according to The Wall Street Journal. The drink company has enlisted the help of several celebrity investors, including Rihanna and Madonna.
In the deal announcement, Vita Coco co-founder and CEO Michael Kirban noted his company’s growth in markets outside the U.S., including in Europe and Japan. “We expect China to follow suit,” Kirban said.
Last year, Coca-Cola KO 0.73% took control of the country’s second-largest coconut water seller, Zico. The beverage giant paid an undisclosed amount for full control of Zico after having paid $15 million for a minority stake five years ago. Meanwhile, Pepsi PEP 1.46% owns a majority stake in coconut water company O.N.E.