Campari announced a deal to buy Italys Averna Group today

Campari announced a deal to buy Italy's Averna Group today

Gruppo Campari's CEO has sidestepped questions over a possible swoop for Whyte & Mackay (W&M), insisting the company will first focus on assimilating its new acquisitions.

Speaking to just-drinks after the announcement of a EUR103.75m (US$143m) deal for Averna Group today (15 April), Bob Kunze-Concewitz, admitted that Campari still has US$250m available to spend this year. However, he refused to be drawn on recent speculation that his company is one of a number of suitors targeting the Scotch whisky producer.

He said: “We're usually suspected of being interested in anything that moves.”

Kunze-Concewitz added: “If you look at our two most recent two deals - (Canadian whiskey owner) Forty Creek Distillery and Averna - both of them are closing in June ... Clearly, we want to focus on digesting these two acquisitions before moving forward.”

Diageo is looking to sell off the bulk of W&M assets to satisfy the UK's Office of Fair Trading. The Smirnoff producer took on the portfolio last year after getting control of W&M's parent companyUnited Spirits

Meanwhile, Kunze-Concewitz denied that today's Averna buy signalled a move away from Campari's focus on growth beyond its domestic market, noting that the company plans to make the US its “number one priority” for international sales. He also said Averna's namesake bitters in Germany, which is growing sales at mid single-digits, “will need some rejuvenation”, with Campari expected to launch tasting activations.

“We believe there is a lot of interest outside of Italy for Italian bitters,” Kunze-Concewitz said. “Clearly, Averna is an iconic brand (in Italy), but mixologists are getting more interested in bitters from Italy.”