London-headquartered confectionery and soft drinks giant Cadbury Schweppes has, as expected, offloaded its European beverages business.

Unexpectedly, however, the buyer is not a trade rival - PepsiCo's name had been to the fore [WAMN: 26-Sep-05] - but two private equity firms. The deal, due to be finalized early in 2006, will see €1.85 billion ($2.17bn; £1.26bn) changing hands.

The buyers are New York-headquartered Blackstone Group and London firm Lion Capital. Neither, of course, is in it for the long term and onlookers expect a vigorous program of cost-cutting and profit maximization leading to an ultimate sell-on.

The equal-stake partners have appointed former Bacardi ceo Javier Ferran as chairman of the new business, which will be Europe's third largest carbonated soft-drinks company.

Says Cadbury ceo Todd Stitzer: "Following completion of a deal, we will be able to focus on our faster-growing confectionery and other beverage businesses."

He stressed that the deal will not affect its stateside drinks business and the ongoing development of its Dr Pepper, 7 UP and Snapple brands.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff