UPDATE 2-Suntory to list food and soft drinks unit in up to $6 bln IPO-sources
* Suntory Beverage & Food to go public in H2 2013 - sources
* Japan IPO will raise 400-500 billion yen - sources
* Funds to be used for overseas acquisitions - Nikkei
TOKYO, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Suntory Holdings Ltd plans to raise up to $6 billion in an initial public offering of its food and non-alcoholic beverage unit, sources with knowledge of the matter said, as the Japanese group aims to expand overseas.
Japanese drinks firms including Suntory, Kirin Holdings Co Ltd and Asahi Group Holdings Ltd have aggressively chased expansion abroad, including through acquisitions, to be less dependent on a shrinking home market.
The maker of C.C. Lemon soft drinks and Yamazaki single malt whisky aims to more than double sales at the food and beverages unit, which does not include alcohol, to 2 trillion yen ($24.3 billion) by 2020 from 960 billion yen last year.
Suntory Beverage and Food Ltd plans to list in the second half of 2013, raising 400-500 billion yen ($4.9 billion-$6.1 billion), said the sources, who did not want to be identified as the plan was not public. The Nikkei newspaper earlier reported that unlisted Suntory would use the IPO funds for overseas acquisitions.
"Many of the European consumer staples have been struggling in their home markets ... and as a result there may be fire sales," said a consumer goods analyst at a foreign investment bank in Tokyo, who declined to speak on the record as the bank doesn't cover Suntory.
Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported last weekend that Diageo Plc and Suntory held talks about a $10 billion joint bid for Jim Beam bourbon maker Beam Inc, and the Japanese group has also been reported to have an interest in Danone SA's water business.
SUNTORY TO KEEP STAKE IN UNIT
Osaka-based Suntory, which traces its roots to the late 19th century and a small Japanese wine production business, grew in the 1920s with the country's first malt whisky distillery and began brewing beer in the 1960s. Suntory group employs more than 28,500 people.
Suntory bought soft drinks maker Orangina Schweppes for more than 300 billion yen in 2009, and a year later acquired the Western Europe rights to the Sunny Delight fruit drink. Last year, it entered into a joint venture with Indonesian food and beverage group GarudaFood.
The food and non-alcoholic beverages business accounts for around half the group's total sales, according to the company's website. At end-March, the group had cash and cash equivalents of 288 billion yen ($3.5 billion).
After the IPO - which would be Japan's biggest since Japan Airlines' $8.5 billion re-listing in September - Suntory plans to retain a sizeable stake in Suntory Beverage and Food, whose businesses include making tea and juices and distributing PepsiCo Inc beverages and chilled drinks for Starbucks Corp, the sources said.
Asked about the possible IPO, a Suntory spokeswoman said nothing had been decided.
Japan saw 30 IPOs in January-September, raising a total of $10.4 billion, with JAL accounting for most of that. In the same period, Asia IPOs, excluding Japan and Australia totalled $28 billion, down more than 56 percent on a year ago.