C&C shares fizz on Bulmers growth

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Shares in C&C Group rose almost 5% as the drinks maker said its signature Bulmers cider brand increased its share of the Irish market despite increasing competition from rivals.

The group, chiefly known for its twin Bulmers/Magners cider brands and Tennent’s lager, said it expected the forthcoming Rugby World Cup to be a boon for its Irish sales.

Chief executive Stephen Glancey said while last year’s Fifa World Cup was a boost, along with the coinciding good weather, the Rugby World Cup “is more important for Ireland than soccer”, especially in September and October.

C&C’s net revenue for the year to the end of February rose 188% to €1.6bn, while operating profits rose 21.5% to €104.5m.

Mr Glancey said despite its acquisition of Matthew Clark Bibendum, the largest independent distributor to the UK pub trade, C&C is not currently looking at further acquisitions.

“I think we have enough assets. Matthew Clark distributes into about 19,000-20,000 pubs, hotels and restaurants. Bibendum does high-end bars and restaurants in London, that provides us with an opportunity to get some of our niche speciality brands into those pubs. We have a lot to get on with, without having to get new assets. We’re quite comfortable with what we have,” he said.

Bulmers, Magners and Tennent’s revenues grew 5.5% in their key home markets, C&C said, with Bulmers market share at just over 60% in the Republic, after a rise of 3% in sales in the year.

“There is competition in Ireland, coming from Heineken with Orchard Thieves and Appleman’s, and the like.

“But Bulmers is a fabric brand, it’s part of the community and society, it has been around a long time. It’s come from the orchards of Ireland rather than a bit of paper in a marketing person’s desk in Dublin.

“Kopparberg provides competition, but that is not bad because it means we innovate such as Bulmers Dark Fruits,” Mr Glancey said.

Growth in rural Ireland was stalling in comparison to urban areas, Mr Glancey said.

In Ireland, the recovery in Dublin and Cork has been much faster than in rural Ireland. There is still pressure on pubs in rural Ireland and we recognise the rural economy is more challenged.

Brexit and trade wars are factors the firm has to “get on with”, Mr Glancey said.

“You have to go with the flow on these things. All we can do is run our business, look after our brands and customers and suppliers.”

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