Stock Spirits may struggle to get the green light for a Becherovka buy

Stock Spirits may struggle to get the green light for a Becherovka buy

Reports this week that Pernod Ricard is looking to offload Czech liqueur brand Becherovka are on the money. Reuters' story on Tuesday (1 April) was not an April Fool: I have heard that Pernod is considering its options on the brand, which is operated by Jan Becher-Karlovka Becherovka in Czech.

Naturally, Pernod is not commenting on the matter.

This is not necessarily a new development, however. I've been told that Pernod has made similar moves in the past, as part of its strategy to hive off brands that it does not consider to be core to its operations. The list of brands that the company has divested - as it looks to ease its post-Vin & Sprit purchase debt burden - is a long one; the Becherovka news, then, is not surprising.

One point in the Reuters report warrants querying, however. Unnamed sources claimed that “Stock Spirits, SPI Group and other eastern European-based interests” may be interested.

In Czech's bitters market, Stock Spirits leads the way with its namesake brand: According to The IWSR, Stock Bitters sold 408.3m nine-litre cases in 2012. Becherovka was second, with volumes of 369.3m cases.

Combined, the two account for around 73% of the bitters category in Czech.

I'd imagine the country's anti-trust authorities might have something to say about a swoop by Stock.