Wine in 2016 - All quiet on the M&A front? - Focus

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Having considered the trends that are set to shape the year ahead for the wine category yesterday, Euromonitor now takes a corporate view on what 2016 will look like in the sector.

The big corporate news in 2015 was Diageo's divestment in October of most of its wine operations to Treasury Wine Estates for US$552m. The news did not come as a surprise, in the sense that Diageo had fallen out of love with wine after the economic crisis of 2008-2009 and had been waiting for someone to offer the right price. More of a surprise was the acquirer, Treasury, which was itself a previous target for a private equity takeover in 2014.

As a result of the deal, Treasury will get a mixture of lower-value, mass-market wine in the UK, which will give it greater scale in this price-driven market. More importantly, the company has also got a good range of premium wines in the US, where its major brand had been the low-value Beringer range.

Treasury's focus on premium wine in the US is part of the continuing trend of major companies picking up niche brands, either in fast-growing wine styles or grape varieties, or vineyards and wineries in high-end/quality growing areas. E&J Gallo continued to lead the way with such acquisitions, with a series of such purchases in 2015, including the Talbott Vineyard.

These types of acquisitions, of vineyards in prestige wine areas such as Bordeaux or Burgundy, along with the odd trophy acquisition by wealthy individuals, are the way forward for M&A activity in wine for the foreseeable future.

The only slight change will be if Accolade Wine launches an IPO for itself. It has been five years since private equity group CHAMP bought Constellation Brands' Australian and UK wine operations. As a general rule, private equity groups look to cash in at least part of their investments between three to five years after initial entry.

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