Christopher Adams

Christopher Adams is the Markets and Banking reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Kiwi cocktail company in sale talks with US liquor firm

Shane McKillen, managing director of VnC Cocktails. The company is the target of acquisition talks with US liquor firm Panache Beverages. Photo / Dean Purcell
Shane McKillen, managing director of VnC Cocktails. The company is the target of acquisition talks with US liquor firm Panache Beverages. Photo / Dean Purcell

A United States liquor firm says it has entered "material discussions" to purchase VnC Cocktails, an Auckland-based company established by one of the founding shareholders of 42 Below vodka, which was sold to Bacardi in 2006.

New York-based Panache Beverages says the acquisition talks pave the way for it to immediately access the 30 countries VnC is distributed in.

A price for the proposed purchase is yet to be disclosed.

VnC was founded in 2007 by Shane McKillen, a founding investor in 42 Below who also represented the New Zealand vodka company in the US prior to its $138 million sale to Bacardi.

VnC manufactures its ready-to-drink cocktails - natural fruit combined with vodka or tequila - in Tauranga at the city's former Pinto juice plant, which the company bought in 2009 and spent $800,000 upgrading.

Panache Beverages says it is involved in the development, sales and marketing of spirits brands.

Last year McKillen said he had exploited his distribution networks from his days with 42 Below to establish VnC in 30 markets around the globe.

At that time he said VnC had exported 120,000 cases of product in the 12 months to March 2011, valued at about $10 million.

In a statement issued by Panache Beverages in the US late last night, McKillen said VnC was "very excited" to be engaged in acquisition discussions with the American company.

McKillen and Panache Beverages chief executive James Dale were formerly in partnership as the US importer of 42 Below.

That partnership ended following the vodka firm's sale to Bacardi, the statement said.

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