So who is the Distilled Spirits Council that Senator Fielding and Malcolm Turnbull have gifted $290 million in alcopops tax to?

All the businesses involved are foreign owned and controlled: Coca Cola Amatil is the most “Australian” company involved, but it is 30% owned by the US Cocal Cola company, and the joint venture that handles its alcopop products is in fact majority foreign owned, being 50% controlled by SAB Miller, the second largest beer company in the world. When the 30% ownership of Coca Cola Amatil is factored in the level of foreign ownership rises past 50%.

Here’s a list of council members. No local companies, except in a joint venture like Lion Bacardi, which is all but international, with Lion Nathan 56% owned by Kirin of Japan.

The market, meanwhile, has already crunched the numbers following the Senate’s defeat of the Federal Government’s Alcopop tax and are calling winners and losers.

Citigroup analysts told clients that “Key beneficiaries of the negative Senate vote would include “Independent Liquor, Fortune Brands and Diageo”.

Independent Liquor is owned by private equity group, Pacific Equity Partners. We don’t know who PEP’s investors are, Allied is based in NZ. It is supposed to be the biggest maker of alcopops maker in the country (AKA Ready To Drink — or RTD — products). Fortune Brands is American and owns Jim Beam, among others, which is canned here by Coca Cola Amatil’s Pacific Beverages joint venture with the world’s second biggest beer company, SABMiller.

Diageo is one of the biggest grog companies in the world and owns Bundaberg Rum, which is a major RTD and alcopop brand. It also owns Smirnoff, one of the biggest alcopop brands, along with Johnny Walker whisky and Baileys, both big in the RTD and alcopop sectors. Diageo’s brands in this sector were hurt by the ban and will now recover thanks to the Senate vote by the good Senator and the Federal Opposition.

Citi pointed out that: “Since the tax change was introduced in April 2008, RTD segment volumes have declined by c.30%. With retail pricing of RTDs now set to fall by up to 20%, we expect a reversal of the consumer switching dynamic that has taken place between RTDs and other alcohol categories including spirits and beer. RTD volumes should recover as a result.”

Citi analysts singled out Lion Nathan and Fosters as ‘losers’. There could be a small benefit for Coca Cola Amatil.

Credit Suisse meanwhile singled out the two brewery giants as losers in the short term, but winners if the push to bank alcohol advertising during sporting events came to pass.

“The political landscape for the brewers must now be watched. We believe that there is political will for a broad-based increase to alcohol taxation likely to come with the debate on preventative health or the Henry Tax Review. This could occur between April 2009 and November 2009.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey