Beam sale to Pernod-Ricard speculated

From Bloomberg News Service

Jim Beam bourbon and Skinnygirl cocktails may be enough to convince Pernod-Ricard SA and Diageo Plc to attempt the biggest spirits acquisition in six years.

Beam Inc., the liquor company formed in the breakup of Fortune Brands Inc. this year, would be worth about $59 a share in a takeover, said Goldman Sachs Group Inc. That would value the Deerfield, Illinois-based owner of Courvoisier cognac and Cruzan rum at $10.8 billion including net debt, making it the largest deal in the liquor industry since 2005, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

With bourbon sales outpacing vodka in the U.S. as drinking at home increases, Beam’s command of a third of the domestic market with Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark may lure Pernod, Europe’s second-biggest distiller, or Diageo, the world’s largest spirits company, said Davenport & Co. and Goldman Sachs. While Pernod’s $14.2 billion in debt and Diageo’s distribution of tequila and cognac brands may be hurdles to a takeover, according to GFI Group Inc., Beam is an appealing entry into the bourbon market because it isn’t family controlled like Jack Daniel’s owner Brown-Forman Corp., said Liberum Capital Ltd.

"Beam’s bourbon play is attractive for the potential buyers," Alfredo Scialabba, a special situations analyst at GFI Group in New York, said in a telephone interview. "They have a very strong position in the U.S., which is the most profitable market, so it would be a very nice addition to one of the other global players."

Stephanie Schroeder, a spokeswoman for Paris-based Pernod, declined to comment on whether the company is interested in acquiring Beam. [Go here for the full story.]

Meanwhile, in less speculative news concerning Pernod-Ricard, Bloomberg reports that the company's "ascent to investment grade is paying off in the credit markets, where the cost of insuring the bonds of the maker of Chivas Regal whisky and Absolut vodka has fallen while that of its peers climbed amid the euro-region debt crisis." [Go here for that story.]

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