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Cott Corp. of Tampa sees its future in water: New focus, new name, new deals

Cott announced Monday it is buying Primo Water Corp., valued at $775 million, and will change its name to Primo once deal closes.

TAMPA — Cott Corp. once was known as a bottler and distributor of carbonated sodas like RC Cola.

Today the publicly traded company, with offices in Tampa and Toronto, is moving into what it sees as a healthier and more profitable future as an enterprise focused purely on water.

So goodbye RC, which Cott sold last year.

Hello, Internet-connected filtered water dispensers and purified water for babies.

Cott Corp. sells beverage manufacturing business for $1.25 billion

To reshape its business, the publicly traded company has made a series of moves in recent weeks capped by an announcement Monday that it’s acquiring North Carolina-based Primo Water Corp. for $14 a share in cash and stock. Once the deal closes in March, Cott will change its name to Primo Water Corp.

“The Primo name is associated with sustainable, healthy hydration, while the current Cott name continues to be linked to our former, sugary sweetened beverage business," Cott chief executive officer Tom Harrington told stock analysts on a conference call Monday. “We think it will actually help us and further separate us from the business that we were a year ago or two years ago.”

Cott Corp. chief executive officer Tom Harrington [ Cott Corp. ]

Primo, valued at $775 million, sells purified, multi-gallon bottled water, water dispensers and purified drinking water at self-service dispensers.

But that’s not all Cott is doing to re-align its business toward water. This month, it also has announced that it has:

• Hired a financial adviser to help it evaluate the possibility of selling its S&D Coffee and Tea subsidiary, which it says is the U.S. market leader in custom coffee roasting and the largest blender of iced teas for food service and convenience stores in the United States.

• Launched PureFlo, an Internet-of-things-enabled water filtration dispenser that continuously monitors water quality and filter life, proactively detects issues and service needs, and-allows users to get detailed, real-time analytics on water quality via their mobile phones.

A Cott PureFlo water dispenser. Users can get data on the water quality coming out of their dispensers on their cell phones. (Cott Corp.) [ Cott Corp. ]

• Acquired a Hungarian company, Clearwater Kereskedelmi és Szolgáltató Korlátolt Felelősségű Társaság, more commonly known simply as ClearWater, which has about 14,000 water dispensers in place as well as a patent to provide carbonated water through water filtration dispensers and bottled water coolers. It also recently acquired the Watercooler Gigant business of Leylines B.V. in the Netherlands.

Cott currently has 9,000 employees and more than 2.5 million customers or delivery points across North America and Europe for its home and office bottled water delivery service, custom coffee roasting, iced-tea blending and extracts business.

Through the merger with Primo, Cott expects to create a company with higher growth and higher margins, as well as about $2 billion in combined sales and a presence in 21 countries.

Cott will pay a total of approximately $216 million in cash to Primo stockholders, financed through new debt or the proceeds from the sale of S&D Coffee and Tea, and issue approximately 26.8 million new shares to Primo stockholders. Cott was trading at $13.45 per share Monday, down nearly 5 percent.

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