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By Mike Caggeso
The whirlwind of recent beverage buyouts may continue, as Foster's Group Ltd. (OTC: FBRWY) – Australia's biggest beer and wine maker – may be a takeover target after it conducts a review of its wine business.
That assessment didn't come from the company, however, but rather Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. (MER) analysts. Foster's Chairman David Crawford said in a conference call that he'd consider "all alternatives" about the company's wine unit, which is the second largest in the world, Bloomberg reported.
A day before Merrill's review, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Trevor Louis O'Hoy resigned after the company cut its earnings forecast and announced a $730 million write-down of its wine unit. O'Hoy will stay on board until a replacement is found.
Foster's now expects constant currency earnings per share growth to fall between 5% and 7%, well below its previous guidance of approximately 10% growth.
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In 2005, the company doubled the size of its wine business with the $3 billion (A$3.2 billion) acquisition of Southcorp. Crawfordearlier this week that Foster's didn't execute the Southcorp integration to their expectations, making operating conditions more challenging.
Merrill's report didn't surprise Crawford, who said earlier this week that the company's returns "are not acceptable."
"We must also recognize and acknowledge that we paid too much to acquire wine assets… and the Board is fully focused on delivering value for shareholders," he said in the statement.
Beverage Providers Stirring Global M&A
Should Foster's put itself on the block, it would join other major global beverage providers that have been on the giving and receiving end of billion-dollar buyout offers.
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