Comment – Beam Cooley buy gives Diageo, Pernod Ricard further hurdle to cross
Beam's purchase of Cooley has added a further hurdle to any potential sole move by Diageo or Pernod Ricard
Even before Fortune Brands switched to become solely a spirits player, divesting itself of its golf and home & security divisions earlier this year, the US company seemed quite proud of not behaving like a potential takeover target. As speculation swirled that Beam Inc, which came into existence in October, was set for a short shelf-life, the purchase of the Skinnygirl RTD brand in March suggested the company was not spending its days waiting by the telephone.
Credit to it, Beam has performed with grace under pressure, refusing to be drawn into any war of words to silence the voices.
Last week's purchase of Cooley Distillery, announced on Friday, will have shut them up for a bit.
In acquiring one of the three producers of Irish whiskey – the others are Pernod's Irish Distillers unit and Diageo's Bushmills – Beam has provided the two drinks giants with a further hurdle to clear, should they be up for a pass at the US-based spirits firm. Anti-trust authorities may have something to say about Diageo or Pernod looking to own two of the three.
Sure, Cooley is a very small player, selling around 250,000 9-litre cases per year - compare that to Jameson's 3.4m cases - but concerns would surely have been raised should too much of the category's production come under the control of just one company.
But, let's not get too carried away: Diageo, which has professed a passing interest, and Pernod, who is trying to keep its hands to itself for a short while longer, would probably have had anti-trust issues in other categories as well, when it comes to Beam. Indeed, both would always have needed a partner to break up Beam.
But, the US firm has, at very least, made a future move that bit more complicated. Whether that was its intention or not.
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