Is Brown-Forman set to buy Remy Cointreau? Probably not

Is Brown-Forman set to buy Remy Cointreau? Probably not

It wasn't that long ago that Brown-Forman was put forward as the next company to get swallowed up in the so-called wave of consolidation that is poised to wash over the global spirits industry. And yet, the fish has become the fisherman, if recent speculation is to be believed.

Only last month, reports suggested that Bacardi was dipping its rod in Kentucky in the hope that Brown-Forman would bite. Then, yesterday, a “cheeky financial blog” suggested that Brown-Forman was doing the same, this time in France, with Remy Cointreau as its prey.

Shortly after the post was published by blogger Ben Harrington, Remy's share price leapt, prompting coverage of Harrington's claims by the likes of Bloomberg, Marketwatch and even our good selves.

I don't doubt that Brown-Forman has a file on Remy Cointreau knocking around its offices. Indeed, the file is probably less dusty than usual at the moment, considering the rollercoaster year Remy is enduring in 2014 so far. That said, I'd expect a company like Brown-Forman to have a file on pretty much every drinks company of similar size or less.

Historically, Brown-Forman's acquisition strategy has comprised buying brands or one-brand companies, rather than buying brand owners. In 2000, the US company set about the purchase of Finlandia vodka, finally buying out its JV partner, Altia, in 2004. Then, in early-2003, it bought the Italian liqueur brand Tuaca. Brown-Forman added to its liqueur stable in 2006, when it snapped up Chambord.

Fast forward to 2007, and the firm bought Casa Herradura and its namesake Tequila brand. And, in 2011, Maximus vodka moved across, again from Altia.

Much as Remy Cointreau could be seen as a valid target by industry observers, I can't help thinking this would be too diverse a range of brands - Remy Martin, Bruichladdich, Mount Gay, Cointreau - for Brown-Forman to digest in one sitting.

Whyte & Mackay, on the other hand...