Beam gets into vodka

The company is spending $605 million on the super-hot Pinnacle Vodka brand and Calico Jack rum.

By Benzinga Apr 23, 2012 5:24PM

By Katey Stapleton, Benzinga Staff Writer

Beam (BEAM), a company that made its name on whiskey, has jumped into the hot area of flavored vodka.

Several spirit brands have recently delved far into the dessert category of vodka flavors, ranging from cotton candy to whipped key lime. In an effort to leap in front of the competition, Beam has acquired perhaps the most innovative of these premium vodka brands: Pinnacle Vodka.

Beam is also buying the Calico Jack rum brand in a $605 million deal. By taking on Pinnacle Vodka, the fourth-largest imported brand in the U.S., Beam is positioning itself to move to the forefront of the vodka class.

"Pinnacle is an excellent strategic fit for Beam, giving us a strong and exciting growth platform in the sweet spot of the attractive vodka category," said Beam CEO Matt Shattock in a statement.

Privately held White Rock Distilleries spent years building up the Pinnacle brand name, which became a massive success and through its line of specialty dessert vodkas and other funky flavors. The acquisition of the 30-flavor brand will not only double Beam's vodka presence on liquor shelves across America, but is expected to bring the company earnings accretion of 5 cents to 10 cents a share in 2013, according to Goldman Sachs.

Beam also said it expects increasing accretion in 2014 and beyond due to synergies of about 20% of net sales on a run-rate basis, the research firm said in a report. The synergy in an average consumer staples deal is only 7% to 8% of target sales.

Goldman analysts estimated that Pinnacle sees an earnings margin before interest, taxes and other costs in the high teens. That could expand with Beam's distribution and supply-chain scale, they added.

Beam's most significant competition, Constellation Brands (STZ), is doing its best to fend off the new threat. In its April 5 earnings call, the spirits distributor reported record free cash flow and an improved consolidated margin structure.

Constellation recently completed its own deal with the purchase of Ruffino, a premium Italian wine brand. This acquisition, coupled with Constellation's Svedka vodka -- also exploring the multiple-flavor path -- made its recently completed fiscal year the highest level of brand building in the company's recent history. With new campaigns and products on the horizon, Constellation has impressed analysts. That was, until BEAM one-upped it with Monday's announcement.

The spirits and wine categories have been on fire in recent years, grabbing revenue and market share as beer sales have tanked. As a result, the beer industry is in a mini crisis, struggling to develop new flavors as customers flee. The acquisitions by Beam and Constellation show that these sectors aren't about to slow down anytime soon.

BEAM closed on Monday at $56, up 9.3% this year, while Constellation closed at $21.23, up 2.7% this year.

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