Comment - Diageo Takes Stock, Leaves Stock
We should not be too surprised that Diageo has ended its flirtation with Stock Spirits.
Diageo is pursuing acquisitions with renewed vigour these days and so, it seems, the drinks giant is eyeing-up anything that strays across its path.
This is particularly true in emerging markets, as group CEO Paul Walsh explained to journalists at the beginning of 2011: "Bolt-on deals in the developing world are very important to us," he said at the company's half-year results conference.
The group has shown this by agreeing to purchase Turkey's leading spirits producer, Mey Içki, for US$2.1bn, as well as a 24% stake in Hanoi Liquor Joint Stock Co for GBP33m (US$54.5m). It is also seeking indirect control of Chinese baiju spirit maker Shui Jing Fang.
In this context, Diageo's interest in Stock Spirits makes sense. As with the above, the premise for a deal has less to do with brands and a lot to do with distribution muscle in important markets. Stock Spirits is the leading spirits player by volume in Poland and Czech, while it also leads Italy's vodka market.
However, the Stock Spirits deal has always had the feel of a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have: not like Mey Içki, which Diageo pursued almost to the point of stretching its famed fiscal boundaries. In the end, Oaktree Capital Management's asking price for Stock has proved unattractive, given the potential gains.
However, I doubt that this will be Diageo's last skirmish on the mergers and acquisitions field before 2011 is out.
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