Business / Corporate

Suntory says it may hike price of its U.S. subsidiary's whiskey in EU due to tariff dispute


Suntory Holdings Ltd. is considering raising the prices of whiskey products a U.S. subsidiary sells in Europe due to the negative earnings impact from punitive European Union tariffs against the United States, Suntory President Takeshi Niinami has said.

The EU introduced 25 percent tariffs on U.S. goods, including whiskey, in June last year in retaliation against restrictions on steel and aluminum imports put in force by Washington.

Beam Suntory Inc., a major American distilled spirit maker acquired by the Japanese beverage producer in 2014, sells bourbon whiskey products such as Jim Beam globally.

“We hope to manage price hikes well in April or later,” Niinami said in a recent interview.

Niinami, however, suggested that the company will not increase its prices by more than 10 percent, considering the sluggish European economy and the rising popularity of Scotch whisky thanks to a drop in the British pound.

According to Niinami, Suntory may skip the price hike or change the size of the markup depending on the region.

He also said Beam Suntory aims to grab the largest market share for U.S.-made whiskey by 2025.

By expanding sales of products jointly developed with the help of Japanese technologies, Beam Suntory hopes to overtake Brown-Forman Corp., the maker of Jack Daniel’s and the top whiskey supplier in the United States, according to Niinami.

On Thursday, Suntory Holdings said that later this month it will release in the United States a new bourbon whiskey called Legent, which was developed jointly with Beam Suntory and will be blended like a Japanese whisky.

“With the completion of this product, we also finished the integration with Beam,” Niinami said.

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