Switzerland: Private Swiss Breweries Seal Historic Takeover Deal

The largest brewery takeover in recent Swiss history is now sealed. After long and difficult negotiations, the last creditors of the overindebted Chopfab Boxer Brewery from Winterthur agreed to a multi-million debt reduction.

This was a prerequisite for Brauerei  Locher AG from Appenzell, the largest private brewery in Switzerland, to acquire its former competitor with breweries in Winterthur and Yverdon-les-Bains. Talks between the breweries were already made public in February (inside.beer, 13.2.2024). "We are part of the solution, but the restructuring is hard work," said Locher CEO Aurèle Meyer at that time, as it was not clear whether all creditors would agree to the debt reduction.

Philip Bucher, CEO of Chopfab Boxer, emphasized to the Tagesanzeiger from Zurich that no public utilities or governmental entities but solely private creditors, such as suppliers, have waived a portion of their claims. "We have not restructured our company on the backs of taxpayers," Bucher emphasized.

According to industry experts, Chobfab Boxer became a victim of its own success. Founded in Winterthur in 2012, the company grew rapidly and quickly achieved cult status. The beer was soon served in many hospitality establishments, followed by a listing at the second largest Swiss retailer, Coop. Five years later, the merger with the Boxer Brewery from Yverdon-les-Bains in the French-speaking part of Switzerland followed. This enabled them to achieve a market share of 4% in Switzerland almost immediately and advance to seventh place among the largest breweries in Switzerland. "We were forced to grow so quickly that we never had the chance to repay the debts," said Bucher.

Although Meyer believes in the brand, quality, and sales of Chopfab Boxer, and also states that the infrastructure is state-of-the-art, he says that this is not the main motivation for the planned acquisition. "We expect other benefits, purely operational ones." For example, logistical advantages are hoped for, as well as a better negotiating position with suppliers.

The goal of the acquisition is also "not a merger, a new joint brand, or a common beer. [...] Chopfab will continue to be brewed in Winterthur, Quöllfrisch in Appenzell," Meyer further stated: "We have strict cost control at Locher. We will certainly incorporate this DNA, this cost consciousness more strongly at Chopfab Boxer." However, this should not result in personnel reductions. Layoffs for the approximately 90 employees are not planned.

Initially, day-to-day operations are expected to continue as usual. "But already in the coming weeks and months, we will explore where and how we can adapt processes and tighten operational cooperation," said Meyer.

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