Chances to stock up on Christmas booze may have been thwarted by the weather, but one company with a new opportunity to bolster its drinks cabinet is Diageo.
By all accounts, the world's largest spirits company is rubbing its hands in glee at yesterday's news that US conglomerate Fortune Brands will spin off its Beam Global Spirits & Wine business.
Certainly, the drinks unit would be a welcome addition to any portfolio, comprising as it does of high profile brands like Courvoisier, Jim Beam and Prince Charles' favourite malt Laphroaig.
Furthermore, with annual sales of $2.5bn, it is Fortune's most profitable business (the other arms operate in the rather less glamorous realms of home security and golf balls). And, Beam Global is the world¹s fourth largest spirits company.
Certain elements of Beam would be of particular interest to Diageo, which will seek to plug gaps in its portfolio. Chief among these are Beam's bourbons. Acquiring the likes of Jim Beam and Maker's Mark would give Diageo an "unassailable" position in the US.
However, cast-iron positions such as this, could hamper the Smirnoff ownerin a bid for the entire liquor business. It already boasts a strong position in Scotch whisky, so acquiring Fortune's Laphroaig and Aardmore brands could cause competition issues.
Plus, Diageo cannot own another cognac under the term of its existing distribution agreement with Moët Hennessy for Courvoisier.
Of course, Diageo isn't Beam's only suitor. Bacardi, Pernod Ricard and Constellation Brands have been thrown into the mix. But, with Pernod Ricard still focused on reducing its debt burden from the Absolut deal, and Constellation also highly leveraged, Bacardi and Diageo are surely the most likely contenders. What is more, Diageo has built up a significant pile of cash over the past year.
As such, one view is that Diageo could overcome competition issues by joining forces with Bacardi in a joint carve up. Who would take what? Well, much like the Christmas turkey there's plenty of room for speculation, but surely enough for everyone. Who's for the legs?
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