Speculation on Diageo and Foster's Resurfaces


Dear Client:

The Australian and British press are at it again. Speculation swirled over the weekend that LVMH could sell Moët Hennessy to Diageo, although the French company has denied interest in the past. Recall that Diageo already holds a 34% stake in the company.

It appears that a new acquisition by LVMH reignited the rumor last week. The company bought a 50% stake in St-Emilion's Château Cheval Blanc and the company La Tour du Pin, owner of the Chateau Quinault l'Enclos estate, another Grand Cru classé of Saint-Emilion. Interestingly, LVMH bought the properties from its billionaire chairman and controlling shareholder, Bernard Arnault. Financial details were not disclosed.

FOSTER’S SELLING WINE UNIT? Similarly, the Financial Times is reporting that Foster’s could demerge its beer and wine unit within 12 months, which could open its beer business for a possible buyout. Just six months ago the company said it wasn’t an “appropriate time” to sell or demerge, but now analysts at Morgan Stanley believe improvements in capital markets could prompt Foster’s to revisit those talks. Possible buyers named in the article include: SABMiller and Asahi Breweries.


Yellow Tail producers Casella Wines are not taking Fred Franzia’s new Down Under Chardonnay lightly. Casella filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan last Wednesday alleging that Down Under’s label closely resembles Yellow Tail and undercuts the price. Down Under’s label features pictures of a wallaby and brackets around the title which is in all caps: [DOWN UNDER] vs [yellow tail].

"Bronco's use of Casella's iconic square brackets and its use of Australian-centric wording in connection with the sale of Australian wine are likely to confuse consumers," the lawsuit said.

Yellow Tail sells for about $7 a bottle, while bulk wine-sourced Down Under will retail for around $3-$4 a bottle. As a result, the lawsuit states that “consumers are likely to believe that [DOWN UNDER] is a rock bottom, cheap version of Casella's [yellow tail] wine." The company also states in court records that Bronco Wine Co was able to purchase bulk Australian wine at record low prices due to the surplus that caused prices to drop 60 cents a liter in 2008.

FIRST FAMILIES AIM TO IMPROVE AUSTRALIA’S IMAGE. Meanwhile, a group of Australian vintners plan to the travel the world conducting tasting events in order to fight the perception that Australian wines are cheap. A total of twelve families make up Australia's First Families of Wine and include: the Brown Brothers, Campbells, Taylors, De Bortoli, Howard Park, McWilliam's, Tahbilk, Tyrrell's, Yalumba, D'Arenberg, Jim Barry and Henschke. Talk about two sides of the coin.


Craft beers are aiming to take advantage of the current economic downturn and replicate wine’s image in the U.S. An article in Reuters starts off with the following line: “Boutique beers are the new cocktail as more money-conscious Americans choose cheaper high quality draft beers made by small local breweries over wine and spirits amid the country's recession, experts say.”

It’s true that craft beers are still growing – but newsflash – so is wine albeit at a slower rate. The article contends that craft beers are good for consumers “who would rather pay $6 to $8 for premium draft than a cocktail or glass of wine that costs twice as much.” Hmm. Actually there are a lot of great wines sold by the glass in that price range, not to mention by the bottle at retail stores.


Wine clubs can name yet another major news outlet as competition, joining the likes of the Wall Street Journal and The San Francisco Chronicle. The New York Times Wine Club was established as a money-making alternative to plunging advertising revenue, said the paper. It will offer members a selection of wines at two price levels, $90 or $180 per six-bottle shipment, and customers can choose to have wine delivered every one, two or three months. Apparently the company is considering a number of different ventures “for engaging our audience” said Thomas K. Carley, the senior vice president of strategic planning for the Times Company. The wine club will run separately from The Time’s food and wine editorial sections.


Bacardi has signed a contract to sell its Nassau-based production facility in New Providence and properties at Clifton Pier to The Source River Limited (SRL), a Nassau-based investment company, reports local papers. Bacardi expects the deal will close by September 30.

Until tomorrow, Megan

“The reward for conformity was that everyone liked you except yourself.”
Rita Mae Brown

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