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"As Africans grow richer, they drink more Scotch." Well, don't we all?
The quote is from the Oct. 1 issue of The Economist, in which it covers Diageo's (NYSE: DEO ) full-on marketing push to convince middle-class Africans to "trade up" their choice of alcoholic beverage from beer to premium whisky, preferably the company's own variety, Johnnie Walker. With a dividend yield of 4%, the London-based Diageo is already a premium income investment. This well-thought-out push into an emerging economy makes the case it could be a premium growth stock, as well.
Keeping out of the cookie jar
If you drink alcohol of just about any variety, it's hard to get away from Diageo's brand reach. In addition to Johnnie Walker, Diageo is home to Tanqueray gin, Smirnoff vodka, Jose Cuervo tequila, Guinness stout, and Sterling Vineyards. But don't worry. It doesn't look like anyone at the company is dipping into the product on the job, as these numbers attest:
- The company owns nearly one-fifth of the world's top 100 liquor brands, including eight of the top 20, and sells its products in more than 180 countries.
- The company made $15.9 billion in total revenue this year, up 9% from the year before. Revenue for peer Constellation Brands (NYSE: STZ ) was down for the same period.
- The overall gross margin for fiscal 2011 was 60%, versus 56% for peer Anheuser-Busch Inbev (NYSE: BUD ) in 2010 (Anheuser-Busch does not have 2011 gross margin figures available yet).
- Over at Molson Coors Brewing (NYSE: TAP ) last year, net income was down. Diageo's net profit was up 24% with a net profit margin of 20%.
Clearly, the company knows how to make and distribute alcoholic beverages efficiently and profitably around the world.
Africa, here we come ... again
According to The Economist, "Johnnie Walker has a long history south of the Sahara." It came to the continent as early as 1887, when the company introduced the product in South Africa. Having to come all the way from Scotland, the square bottle made it easy to pack and ship. And since whisky is drunk at room temperature, the hot climate conveniently suits whisky drinking norms.
But belying whisky's history in the region, by global standards Africans don't drink much of it. The typical Frenchman drinks 40 shots of whisky per year. The typical Nigerian? Only a third of a shot. Still, numbers show Africans have a taste for the stuff. In the first six months of 2011, they bought $147 million worth, up by 34% over last year. Hence Diageo's big Johnnie Walker marketing push, one the company is getting right.
Hey, everybody, look at what I'm drinking
"Johnnie Walker is a useful signifier of success," Nick Blazquez, the head of Diageo for Africa, told The Economist. As such, the company is downplaying the drink's Scottish origins, and marketing it purely as a status symbol. And the company is putting in the proper amount of thought, time, and money into the effort:
- A 20-story billboard on the side of a skyscraper will stridently sell the citizens of Nairobi on the merits of Johnnie Walker Black.
- Print ads featuring Olympic gold medalist Haile Gebrselassie will run throughout Africa, in a deal reported to be worth $100,000 to the Ethiopian runner.
- The company has a history of training bar staff in the finer points of serving Scotch, a drink many have never worked with before.
Last call for high yield and growth
According to The Economist, Scotch, like any other status symbol, tends to sell well in hierarchical societies, which Africa certainly is. And Diageo's own market research shows that Africans will indeed trade up, given a proper nudge, as has happened in other emerging markets. The stars seem to be aligning for the company's Johnnie Walker push there.
The stock itself has seen steady growth since the financial implosion of 2008-2009, and is now trading for around $82 per share, with a very reasonable P/E of 17. And with luxury brand valuations being driven higher and higher of late, there's room for share price appreciation here, too, on top of the generous 4% dividend the company is already paying.
Diageo has the brand strength, financial firepower, and marketing savvy to spread the gospel of Scotch across Africa. Now that's something to raise a glass to, and here's something else: a free report detailing 13 high-yielding, dividend stocks our Foolish analysts have discovered. To get your copy while it's still available, click here.