Comment - Diageo, Pernod Ricard Ten Years After Seagram
A Christmas toast to anyone who clocked that yesterday (21 December) marked the tenth anniversary of the Seagram deal between Diageo and Pernod Ricard. But, does it still matter?
It does in that, for consolidation in the drinks industry - and in the spirits sector in particular - the Seagram deal of 2001 marked a watershed. Seagram signalled Diageo's intent to focus solely on alcoholic drinks. For Pernod, it did the same, but it also demonstrated the French group's desire to expand on the international scene.
Seeing as Diageo already had the likes of Guinness and Johnnie Walker on its books prior to the purchase, it is tempting to argue that Pernod has done better out of the deal. It would be more accurate to say that both companies benefited.
The prominent positions of ex-Seagram brands such as The Glenlivet, Chivas Regal and Martell in Pernod's portfolio demonstrates the legacy of the transaction within the group. Martell Cognac is fuelling Pernod's rapid growth in China, while Chivas and The Glenlivet spearhead a Scotch portfolio that is integral to the French firm's success. The company doesn't release specific figures on Scotch, but analyst group Sanford Bernstein estimates that Scotch whisky accounts for almost one quarter of Pernod's annual net sales and around 30% of profits. Meanwhile, Bernstein estimates that Martell makes up a further 10% of group profits.
Pernod may have made two other seismic acquisitions in the last ten years, snapping up both Allied Domecq and Absolut vodka owner Vin & Sprit, but the Seagram deal is still stamped all over the firm's identity.
For Diageo, Seagram is largely a US affair. Today, ex-Seagram brands Crown Royal and Captain Morgan are the fourth and third largest brands respectively in Diageo's portfolio in North America, the group's largest market in terms of net sales and profits. While Diageo had been the market leader in US spirits before Seagram, with a 17% volume share, the deal increased that share to 24%.
The firm has never looked like being overhauled. Its nearest competitor in the US today is Bacardi, on a volume share of around 10%.
For Captain Morgan, Diageo has taken almost a decade to get settled with the brand. It opened a purpose-built distillery for the spiced rum in the US Virgin Islands last year, amid much acrimony.
These examples, then, show clearly that the Seagram deal of late-2001, and the subsequent carve-up over the next 12 months, continues to have a strong influence on the shape of the industry.
Consolidation is set to continue in the spirits sector. Specifically, it still looks likely that Beam Inc will eventually find itself within the orbit of two or more big players. Could we be looking at Seagram mark II? A Diageo deal for Jim Beam Bourbon would make the group unassailable in the US spirits market, surely?
That said, some of the big brands from Seagram are not going anywhere, except upwards. At a time when emerging markets across Asia, Africa and Latin America are increasingly driving growth, we find that Martell and Chivas are right in the thick of it. Diageo, meanwhile, has said that it has high hopes for Captain Morgan in the US, following the brand's relocation. The history of Seagram's brands, then, is still being written.
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