Blog: Market set for a bubbling few weeks
Chris Brook-Carter | 6 July 2005
The really quite trivial story of Welsh singing star Charlotte Church admitting this week to splashing out GBP1,000 on two bottles of bubbly coincided more interestingly with news that as many as four major Champagne houses could potentially change hands over the next couple of months.
Though one story got splashed, depressingly, across the front pages of today’s UK tabloids, while the other was confined to the business pages of the broadsheets, the two are not entirely unrelated.
Mumm and Perrier Jouet now look all but certain to join the ranks of Pernod Ricard at the end of this month after Allied Domecq shareholders gave the takeover plan the thumbs up yesterday. However, these two global brands now look set to be joined by Taittinger and Lanson on the market.
A firm line-up of potential suitors for the Taittinger Champagne business could be in place within four or five weeks, according to reports today. The controlling family has retained two banks, Rothschild and BNP Paribas, to entertain offers. Private equity firms PAI, Eurazeo, Cinven Group and Wendel Investissement, meanwhile, are all thought to have made contact over acquiring the business.
At the same time, Lanson’s 44% stake holder Caisse d’Epargne, the French bank, has suggested that it would engage in talks to sell its holding.
It is the very fact that wealthy young drinkers, such as Church, are willing to spend so much on Champagne that makes these sales so interesting.
It certainly seems a good time to be a seller. These brands will certainly command high prices and attract a number of interested parties. Over the past four years, despite a great deal of political and economic upheaval, Champagne sales have continued to grow. While many other major vineyard areas in France face great trauma and dwindling overall sales, demand for this unique sparkling wine has risen steadily, despite its relatively high starting price.
But Champagne brands also look like a sensible investment for possible suitors.
Champagne - within its current borders - is at its maximum production levels. Growth can only come from price increases and, if current trends and global economic stability continue, there appears to be no reason why the Champenoise cannot look forward with optimism.
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