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ITALY: Campari eyes whisky market - report

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Davide Campari-Milano is eyeing the whisky category, according to reports.

Speaking to Thomson Financial News yesterday (6 November), the drinks group's CEO, Bob Kunze-Concewitz said that, whilst he is satisfied with the group's vodka brands, he views the whisky category as "a very interesting sector".

Kunze-Concewitz indicated in the interview that Campari's Skyy vodka brand is performing well outside of the US, and confirmed the July purchase of the X-Rated brand amounting to US$40m. He also highlighted that Campari is distributing Russian Standard's vodka brands in the Italian, German and Swiss markets.

Kunze-Concewitz told reporters that he expects the company's impending US$80m acquisition of the Cabo Wabo Tequila Co. from former lead singer of rock band Van Halen Sammy Hagar, to be effective by the New Year.

Hagar will continue to own 20% of the company and will remain as partner and as shareholder, Kunze-Concewitz added.

Kunze-Concewitz reportedly reinstated his interest in the potential sale of Vin & Sprit, after recently telling local press that, whilst buying the Absolut vodka brand from the Swedish government is out of Campari's reach, the possible sale of the state-owned company could present some appealing opportunities.

The main contenders, which include Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi and Fortune Brands, may need to sell one of their current brands to avoid anti-trust issues, Kunze-Concewitz said. Alternatively the "big players" may need to sell brands to raise funds or may even require local distributors. "That is how we could enter the scene," he added.

In September, Gruppo Campari, of which Davide Campari-Milano is the parent company, posted a 7.9% lift in operating profit for the six months to the end of June, hitting EUR92.7m (US$127.8m) for the period. Net sales for the half-year were up by 5.4% to EUR40.6m.

The group will issue its  Q3 results tomorrow.


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