Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

News Briefs for January 17, 2014

January 17, 2014

Suntory’s proposed $16 billion acquisition of Beam Inc. is being targeted by at least two lawsuits brought by Beam shareholders, both of which assert that Beam’s board has accepted a price that undervalues the company. One lawsuit seeking to nix the blockbuster deal was filed in Illinois state court by Beam shareholder Todd Miller, Bloomberg reports, while another was filed in Delaware Chancery Court by shareholder Carol Chichester, according to Law360. The latter suit claims that the $425 million breakup fee included in the deal, among other conditions, tilt unfairly to Suntory’s advantage, and “are calculated to unreasonably dissuade potential suitors from making competing offers.” Beam has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.

•Global Champagne sales fell by both volume and value in 2013, according to the Comité Interprofessionnel de Vin de Champagne (CIVC), as solid export growth around the world failed to offset falling sales in France and key European markets. Overall, Champagne volume slipped 1.5% to 304 million bottles last year, with revenues down 2.5% to €4.3 billion ($5.9b). The numbers show that Champagne, which hit its high-water mark of 339 million bottles in 2007, still has not completely recovered from the global economic downturn of 2008-2009. In 2013, domestic French volume was down 2.3% to 167 million bottles, while the rest of the European Union posted a 3.4% decline to 74 million bottles. Meanwhile, Champagne markets outside the E.U.—the two largest being the U.S. and Japan, respectively—grew volume 3.2% to 63 million bottles. Encouragingly, Champagne’s sales ramped up markedly over the holidays, increasing 8% in December over the previous year.

•Aveníu Brands has released new packaging for its Anna De Codorníu Spanish sparkling wine range. Running across the brand’s Brut and Brut Rosé labels (both $14.99 a 750-ml.), the updated look is designed to communicate a more “chic and stylish” image. The package revamp will be supported with a new messaging program, under the tagline “What are you celebrating?” Intended to urge female consumers to celebrate the everyday, the push will include a national series of sponsored parties, tasting events and social medial programs.

•AB InBev is extending its Stella Artois Cidre offering nationwide in the U.S. Stella’s Cidre variant initially launched in 26 states in May of last year. The company says the newcomer has drawn interest from white wine drinkers in particular, and suggests serving Stella Cidre—which is 4.5% abv and available in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles and on draft—in a white wine glass and pairing it foods like cheeses and Asian cuisine. AB InBev adds that the new product’s relative dryness compared with most American ciders sets it apart in a U.S. cider market which has been growing by more than 100% annually.

•Johnson Brothers Wholesale Liquor Co. founder Lynn Johnson died January 12 at his home in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was 84. Johnson founded the wine and spirits distributor as a one-man operation in 1953 in St. Paul (his brother Mitchell later joined him in the business). Over the years, the group expanded far beyond Minnesota, and rose to become the seventh-ranked wine and spirits wholesaler in the country. Johnson Brothers is currently present in 22 states, and had estimated revenues of $1.7 billion in 2013, according to Impact Newsletter.

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