Owner of Scotch Malt Whisky Society eyeing stock market flotation after membership jumps

Artisanal Spirits Company, the owner of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, is eyeing a stock market flotation after reporting strong annual results.

The firm signalled a signalled a possible initial public offering (IPO) on London’s junior Alternative Investment Market as is announced that it had appointed drinks industry veteran Mark Hunter as chairman.

Paul Skipworth, who has now moved into the role of deputy chairman, said: “Over the past five years as chair, I’m delighted that company revenues have nearly tripled, stock levels have quadrupled and the business has changed positively and dramatically.

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“The foundations for success have been built and are delivering results year on year.

Mark Hunter, the new chairman of Artisanal Spirits Company, owner of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Picture: Peter Sandground
Mark Hunter, the new chairman of Artisanal Spirits Company, owner of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Picture: Peter Sandground

“I believe that the ASC is extremely well positioned to take advantage of the global consumer trends of premiumisation; digital engagement and e-commerce; internationalisation of brands and consumers and the consumer thirst for knowledge on the creation, authenticity and heritage of the products that they consume.

“Combined with its stock holdings and supply relationships with over 100 distilleries worldwide, I believe that the ASC will continue to grow strongly in the years ahead.”

Bosses described 2020 as another strong year amid a “challenging backdrop” as the company continued to benefit from the growing demand for premium single cask malt whisky both domestically and overseas.

Revenues grew to £15 million, driven by a 30 per cent increase in e-commerce sales and continued international success, with non-UK trade now accounting for 69 per cent of overall revenues compared with 59 per cent in 2019 and 54 per cent in 2018.

Global membership of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society increased 4 per cent in the year to about 28,000, thanks to an increase in the number of sign-ups made through online channels. Overall, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (including other income) increased by £500,000 to £600,000, despite the negative impact of £700,000, as a result of the US tariff on single malt scotch whisky, which has now been lifted.

The ASC noted that the largest international market by value was China with more than £3m of sales followed by the US on £2.7m.

Incoming chairman Hunter, who has a drinks industry career spanning more than 30 years, most recently as president and chief executive of Molson Coors, said: “I feel very privileged to take on this role at such an exciting time for ASC and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

“SMWS is a special organisation, delivering only the very best single cask, single malt whisky, craft spirits and entertainment to its loyal members around the world.

“Working alongside the ASC executive team, I am committed to continuing the work of my predecessor, Paul, in ensuring the society continues to grow and thrive while protecting the distinctive culture and values that make it so unique.”

David Ridley, managing director of ASC, added: “Attracting someone of Mark’s calibre to ASC is testament to the success we’ve had and the opportunities that lie ahead.

“Mark knows the alcohol industry inside out, but just as importantly is a proud Scot who loves our product, buys into our philosophy and lives and breathes the same values we do.”

ASC has appointed N+1 Singer to explore options.

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