In an international alliance like the ones we saw in the good ol' days before the Iraq War, France, the United States, and England are joining forces. Only this time, the battle is for the liquor market, and the target is industry titan Diageo
Pernod Ricard, the French maker of Chivas Regal, and U.S.-based Fortune Brands
Primarily engaged in the production of selling spirits and wine, for which it is the world's No. 2 company, Allied Domecq also has a thing for fast food: It owns Dunkin' Donuts, Baskin-Robbins, and sandwich slinger Togo's. Yet it is dwarfed by Motley Fool Income Investor selection Diageo, which is some three times larger. Allied Domecq leads No. 3 Pernod and is well ahead of Fortune Brands, which trails worldwide at No. 12, though here in the U.S., it owns a bigger slice of the pie and is second only to Diageo. The deal would also be reminiscent of the $8 billion pact in 2000 between Diageo and Pernod to divvy up the holdings of Seagram's, which included Captain Morgan rum, and Crown Royal and VO Canadian whiskies.
For that reason, this sale is expected to be neither smooth nor quick. Which brands would go to which company remains to be worked out. In addition to Beefeater, Allied owns a diverse stable of marquee brands including Stolichnaya vodka, Kahlua coffee liqueur, Malibu coconut rum, Courvoisier, Maker's Mark, Ballantine's, and Canadian Club. In addition to the likely complex financial arrangements, the companies will undoubtedly face a number of regulatory hurdles.
Both companies would assume a portion of Allied's $4.2 billion of debt. Pernod, though generally considered financially sound, would have to take on about half or more and split it between debt and equity, a move that would cause some serious share dilution. The company trades in the U.S. on the Pink Sheets, a common trait of foreign companies. Fortune, too, would find its debt load strained, and Standard & Poor's has already said it might cut its debt rating if the deal went through.
Allied has been through the acquisition rumor mill before, and some analysts believe that its recent strength might make it too expensive and could even lead to its being the acquirer before the dust settles. Industry consolidation, though, is considered providential, but as one analyst pithily noted, it's like the Seven Dwarfs standing on each other's shoulders and still not being as tall as Snow White. Diageo is just such an industry giant that pays dividends, enjoys big profit margins, and has some $3 billion in cash.
While not as valiant a mission as spreading liberty to an oppressed people, the proposed deal is being viewed as one that seemingly benefits all parties involved. It could be Allied Domecq's last call.
Take a sip of these related liquor-industry articles:
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Fool contributor Rich Duprey has had to reluctantly put aside his love affair with Coors Light. He does not own any of the stocks mentioned in the article.