Grant nips in to seal £260m deal for C&C spirit division

WILLIAM Grant has further flexed its international muscle after agreeing a 300 million (£260m) deal to swallow the spirits and liqueurs arm of Irish group C&C.

• Chief executive Stella David hailed Grant's purchase. Picture: Complimentary

The family-owned distiller, already one of Scotland's largest private companies with annual global sales of 600m, will see Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey and the Irish Mist and Frangelico liqueur brands join its burgeoning portfolio.

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Dublin-listed C&C is selling the division to reduce debt and focus on cider and beer production. Last year, the Magners maker paid 180m to acquire iconic Scottish lager brand Tennent's from drinks giant Anheuser-Busch InBev.

William Grant is the third largest producer of Scotch after Diageo and Chivas Brothers' owner Pernod Ricard, with an estimated 10 per cent share of the market. Its core brands include single malt Glenfiddich and blended Grant's Scotch. The 123-year-old firm has also built up an eclectic non-whisky portfolio, which includes the likes of Hendrick's gin, Sailor Jerry spiced rum and Milagro tequila.

Commenting on the major push into Ireland, William Grant chief executive Stella David said: "We have been looking to further develop our non-Scotch portfolio. C&C's spirits business provides a unique opportunity to acquire a number of significant brands and enter the highly desirable and dynamic Irish whiskey category."

David, appointed to the top post last June from Bacardi where she was head of global marketing, said Tullamore Dew had the potential to be a "core global brand in our business". She added: "We shall make significant investment in Ireland and invest in the long-term value growth of the brands." The company refused to comment further "due to the nature of the legally-binding agreement".

C&C – originally known as Cantrell & Cochrane – requires shareholder approval for the disposal of the spirits division, which has 57 employees in Ireland and posted revenue of 85.9m for the year ended 28 February, 2009. If accepted, the deal is expected to be completed by the end of June.

C&C Group chairman Tony O'Brien said: "The agreement to sell to William Grant was not an easy one, but is, we believe, in the best interests of all shareholders."

Liam Igoe, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Ireland, said the sale price was about 100m more than expected. He has a "buy" recommendation on C&C's shares.

Barry Gallagher at stockbroking firm Davy welcomed the deal, saying the acquisition multiple of 18 times underlying earnings "looks very attractive".

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"With the group (C&C] now virtually debt-free, it will be able to look at attractive assets/brands which will support its overall growing LAD (long alcoholic drinks] business."

Annual accounts for William Grant & Sons Holdings, published last November, revealed a record pre-tax profit of 129.2m, up 55 per cent. Turnover grew by more than a fifth to 598.3m.