August 4, 2008
just-drinks.com editor's weekly highlights
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The current economic gloom encompassing us all (I had to buy own-brand loo roll at the weekend – ouch) could lead you to conclude that the acquisition trail in the global drinks industry has gone cold. Certainly, after Carlsberg and Heineken's success in snapping up Scottish & Newcastle, Pernod Ricard's purchase of Vin & Sprit and InBev's successful move for Anheuser-Busch, you'd be forgiven for thinking 2008 has had its fair share of shopping frenzy.
But last week, we saw that, while our wallets might be getting lighter, there's still quite a few drinks companies with some pocket money to spare. First up, we heard rumours that Cobra Beer has started talks with “several interested parties” to invest in the company. While Diageo was initially linked to being in talks with Cobra – the drinks giant was even moved to say it has “reviewed a possible link” with Cobra – I've heard a move by Diageo appears unlikely. The door is wide open, though, for any others of you who can still afford branded toilet paper to sit down with Cobra.
Following this, we reported last week that Bacardi has finally sorted out the purchase of what it called a “significant” minority stake in The Patron Spirits Company. Despite a long-running and, what sounds like having been, a somewhat unsavoury battle, Bacardi can now feel highly satisfied with the transaction. Patron is sitting pretty, thanks not only to impressive growth in the Tequila market in recent years, but also having ridden the wave of a booming premium spirits market. I'm due to meet with Patron's COO later this month, so if you have any questions you'd like him to face, do let me know.
And then, there's Stolichnaya. The vodka brand, as most of you know, is set to finish its international distribution deal with Pernod within the next six months, so a buyer needs to be found by Stolichnaya's Russian owners SPI Group. The 'R' word alone suggests that this will be a colourful ride, with one analyst telling us last week that the matter is yet more confusing, because "no one knows exactly what is for sale".
We've since learnt that the Stolichnaya brand name is not for sale, although reports last week claimed SPI was hoping to raise US$3bn from some sort of sale. As one insider told us recently, the chances of any company making a move for Stolichnaya is dependent on some sort of approval from the Russian government. While this may result in SPI having a 'squeaky bum' moment at some point in the future, then, here's hoping someone can help out with some luxury loo-roll.
And that's not me, I'm afraid.
Until next time...
Olly Wehring, Managing Editor
Spain’s premier wine region, Rioja, has been in heated debate over the addition of new white grape varieties to those allowed under the Rioja denomination. The introduction of several almost extinct local varieties has been widely accepted but, writes Chris Losh, the addition of the ubiquitous Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc to the region’s list of permitted white grapes has proved far more controversial.
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