Today one of Diageo’s many overseas interests hit the acquisition trail, with East African Breweries splashing out $60m on rival Serengeti. But the Guinness brewer has rather bigger fish to fry on the deal markets.
This week the drinks giant has again been linked with a multibillion-pound bid for Moët Hennessy, the ‘MH’ in posh luggage maker LVMH. ‘Again’ because talk about a bid was last doing the rounds in April 2009, when chief executive Paul Walsh pretty much confirmed that the company was interested in doing a deal.
That, of course, was in the middle of the downturn, meaning LVMH was unlikely to get full value for its stable of sought-after brands. While most of us aren’t popping the Champagne corks too often just yet, the top end of the drinks market has come back strong enough to make a deal more attractive to all concerned.
In fact, Diageo already owns a third of MH and distributes Moët and Dom Perignon in the UK. And analysts broadly accept that the move makes sense.
But more intriguing is where a deal would leave Diageo’s spirits portfolio, specifically its single malts. Just a few weeks ago MD Simon Litherland, in his stint as The Grocer’s guest editor, was outlining plans to make Talisker the UK’s top malt. A deal would mean Talisker sharing a home with Glenmorangie, which LVMH acquired in 2004 for £300m.
That issue would be near the top of the in-tray for Sarah Miles, appointed just last month to head up Diageo’s Reserve Brands division in the UK.
Still, it all depends on a deal getting done, which is far from certain. In the meantime, what The Grocer’s resident Diageo-watchers are really wondering is when Guinness Black Lager, currently on trial in Northern Ireland, will make its debut over here.
They say good things come to those who wait, but this is getting ridiculous.
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