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Drinks

Italy's Campari To Buy Courvoisier Cognac From Beam Suntory

By Reuters
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Italy's Campari To Buy Courvoisier Cognac From Beam Suntory

Spirits group Campari has agreed to buy historic French cognac house Courvoisier from Beam Suntory for an initial price of $1.20 billion (€1.11 billion), in the largest deal on record for the Italian group.

Campari, which wants a large portion of its growth to be powered by acquisitions as it looks to become a more serious contender to spirits giants Diageo and Pernod Ricard, said cognac would now become the fourth major part of the group, alongside aperitifs, bourbon and tequila.

It previously owned only one smaller cognac brand, Bisquit, according to its website, though Grand Marnier, a blend of cognac and orange liquor, is a key part of its portfolio.

Executives said the deal would enable a significant step up for Campari in the US market and offered transformational potential in the Asia Pacific region – also a large cognac market, led by China.

Shares Fall

However, Campari shares fell as much as 6% early on Friday, following the news of the acquisition.

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Campari has a track record of breathing new life into declining brands, analysts said, adding the deal made sense.

"The acquisition was expensive and to finance it Campari could issue equity-linked instruments" said Angelo Meda, portfolio manager at Banor SIM in Milan, on why the shares fell.

'Historical Cognac House'

"We are very pleased to acquire a top four historical cognac house," Campari chief executive Bob Kunze-Concewitz, who will step down next year, said in a statement.

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Building market share in the United States and China - both massive markets where Campari currently has a relatively small presence – is critical to the group better competing with its larger rivals.

The deal was also expected to boost Campari's net sales by around 9%, Kunze-Concewitz told analysts, adding it was also a rare opportunity to expand its premium spirits portfolio and its production and bottling capacity in France.

Brand Relaunch

First, however, Campari would look to re-launch the brand – a strategy the company had successfully followed with previous brands it purchased, he continued.

Sales at Courvoisier, founded in 1828, declined 33% in the year to 31 October versus a year earlier, Campari said.

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The deal, expected to close next year, envisages an additional earn-out of up to $0.12 billion to be payable in 2029, Campari said in a statement, adding it would fund the acquisition via a mix of debt, cash and equity or equity-like instruments.

Beam Suntory president and CEO Greg Hughes said the company would focus on its core strengths as it looks to accelerate its own global growth ambitions.

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