June 10, 2012 / 2:17 PM / 6 years ago

Diageo considers Asia listing to bolster expansion

LONDON (Reuters) - Drinks giant Diageo (DGE.L) is looking at a potential listing of its shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange to help boost its expansion plans in Asia, part of its overall drive into fast growing emerging markets.

The world’s biggest spirits group already has its shares listed on the London and New York stock exchanges and a listing in a developing region is being considered as the group looks to generate half its sales from emerging markets by 2015.

“It’s something that we keep under review, but there are no imminent plans,” said a Diageo spokesman on Sunday.

Diageo Chief Executive Paul Walsh has said a Hong Kong listing is something Diageo’s board is considering and will continue to look at and there have been some discussion documents produced.

But he has also said a move is not imminent and the company should not get obsessed by a potential listing and take its eye off the key issues of growing and meeting its financial targets.

Industry sources said London-based Diageo might only list in Asia if it needed to finance a big deal, probably in the Asian market.

The Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka maker is looking to emerging markets to offset sluggish sales in Western Europe and last week announced a one billion pound investment in Scotch whisky production to back up its expansion.

Walsh has said the firm is seeing fast growth in emerging markets and he would be disappointed if the group did not reach its target of 50 percent of sales in these markets earlier than its planned target of 2015 from around 40 percent at present.

Diageo’s sales grew in the last half of 2011 by 8 percent while those in emerging markets were up 18 percent, and are set to be boosted further after it acquired Turkey’s Mey Icki and a stake in China’s Sichuan Shuijingfang (600779.SS) last year, as well as Brazil’s Ypioca cachaca maker earlier this year.

The group’s push into emerging market could be boosted further as it tries to secure a deal to take a minority stake in$3-billion-plus Jose Cuervo tequila, which could lead it to taking control eventually from the Mexican Beckmann family.

Diageo distributes Cuervo in most markets outside Mexico in an arrangement which ends in June 2013 and Walsh is keen to get a better deal. This could end up with Diageo paying for Cuervo in a mix of cash and shares to give the Beckmanns a small stake in Diageo, industry sources have said.

Reporting by David Jones; Editing by Mark Potter

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