C&C IS rumoured to be in the early planning stages concerning the partial sale of its non-core spirits and liqueurs division, in a move which could free up funding for a bid for another significant acquisition in Britain sometime next year.
Although the drinks group – which owns the twin cider brands of Bulmers and Magners and last week enhanced its cider division through the acquisition of Britain’s second largest cider company, Gaymer’s – has repeatedly claimed it has no plans to offload its spirits division, speculation to the contrary has been constant.
Latest talk surrounds the possible formation of a kind of Irish spirits/ liqueur “superpower” consisting of Cooley Distillery; the Abbeyleix-based First Ireland Spirits; the former Golden Vale brand/subsidiary, St Brendan’s Irish Cream and C&C’s spirits division – which includes brands such as Tullamore Dew whiskey and Carolan’s Irish Cream.
In the last two and a half years, C&C has sold its wine distribution business, Findlater Grants, and its soft drink business, in separate deals worth a combined €260m. However, since the group’s change of management last year, the new C&C board – headed up by former Scottish & Newcastle executives John Dunsmore, Stephen Glancey and Kenny Neison – has stressed that an over-reliance on the two core cider brands would be resisted.
To that end, the group has recently acquired leading Scottish lager brand Tennent’s and the aforementioned Gaymer’s, which also gives the Irish group control of Blackthorn Cider and makes it the second largest player in that sub-sector of the British drinks industry.
Speaking at the announcement of that deal, last week, Mr Neison – C&C’s strategy director – reiterated the “no sale” stance, regarding the spirits business. He said that the division was still a profit generator for the entire group, but he did add that management is still assessing where the spirits business fits into the overall C&C group structure. But the latest speculation seems to suggest the possibility of C&C still being involved in the new business rather than simply selling the division off totally.
When asked about the prospects of a further significant acquisition coming down the line – at the same announcement – C&C’s finance director Stephen Glancey jokingly said the only “big” development he was aiming for next year was a break, after overseeing two significant acquisitions in the latter half of this year.
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