Scotland business

Spirits group Loch Lomond sold to Hong Kong fund

Loch Lomond products Image copyright Loch Lomond Group

The spirits group behind Glen's vodka and High Commissioner whisky has been taken over by a Hong Kong-based investment fund.

Loch Lomond Group was sold by owners Exponent to Hillhouse Capital Group in a deal thought to be worth about £400m.

That would make it one of the biggest deals the Scotch whisky industry has seen in recent years.

Loch Lomond was bought out of the Bulloch family's ownership five years ago for a reported £210m.

Under Exponent Private Equity, it expanded rapidly into export markets, backed by further investment of £25m.

Loch Lomond's chairman is former Diageo finance chief Nick Rose, while its chief executive Colin Matthews was previously a senior executive at Imperial Tobacco. Both retain a stake after the sale.

Five years ago, 10% of sales were from exports. That has now reached 70%, with sales of £53m in the year to last September - up 7% on the preceding year.

The Loch Lomond brand is being further promoted through a major, five-year sponsorship deal with golf's Open Championship.

Image copyright Loch Lomond Group

The group owns the Loch Lomond, Glen Scotia and High Commissioner whisky blends, and makes Glen's vodka, which is one of the UK's biggest sellers.

It has distilleries in Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, and Campbeltown, as well as a bottling plant in Ayrshire and its own cooperage for making casks.

Mr Matthews said: "Over the past five years we are proud to have transformed The Loch Lomond Group into a premium international spirits business with a strong focus on innovation and a portfolio of award-winning brands.

"We believe now is the right time to move forward into the next stage of our growth strategy as we look to innovate further, extend our portfolio of brands and continue to expand our international presence, particularly in Asia where Hillhouse has significant experience."

Hillhouse Capital partner Wei Cao said its intention was to "work closely with Loch Lomond's management, to help it offer a premium consumer experience in international markets through channels like e-commerce and new retail".

He added: "We believe the strongest advantages in business are innovative and differentiated products and management teams."