It wasn’t that long ago the financial dealings of leading Australian wine producers BRL Hardy or Orlando–Wyndham would have made news in Australia. Now that both companies are part of international conglomerates the fact their parents, Constellation Brands (Hardy) and Pernod Ricard (Orlando), are involved in an $18 billion tussle over UK drinks giant Allied Domecq hardly rates a mention.

At the beginning of last week the deal between Pernod Ricard and Allied-Domecq looked done, but by mid-week Constellation Brands entered the bidding via a consortium including Brown-Forman Corporation, owners of Jack Daniels and Fetzer wines, and US-based investment outfits Lion Capital and the Blackstone Group.

Reports are suggesting the offer is not far from Pernod Ricard’s, but in cash rather than the cash/equity mix Pernod Ricard is offering. There’s also speculation that Diageo, the world’s number-one in the drinks industry, is in talks with family-owned Bacardi to make a bid.

In less than three years, Constellation Brands has taken over the Robert Mondavi Corporation, BRL Hardy and acquired a 40% stake in leading Italian wine producer Ruffino. It now bills itself as the “largest producer and marketer of wine worldwide,” second largest producer and marketer of wine in the US and third largest producer and marketer of distilled spirits.

If Constellation Brands succeeds in the Allied Domecq bid, it will be limited by the same restrictions that apply to Pernod Ricard and Fortune Brands. What bits it can keep will be dictated by various monopoly regulators/competition authorities around the world who’s job is to prevent one company owning too much of one industry.

For more on wine read The Key Reporthere.

Peter Fray

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