Diageo prioritises current brands over acquisitions

Paul Walsh has disputed there are bourbon and tequila gaps in Diageo’s portfolio and said the group’s priority is building existing brands, not acquisitions.

At the group’s interim results press conference today, Walsh told journalists Diageo didn't necessarily need to buy a mainstream tequila or bourbon brand:

He said: “If you look at North American whiskey – we have a 20% share and we will continue to grow our share. Bulleit [bourbon] has doubled.”

“First priority is always building what you own. Once you have done that you are afforded the ability to broaden your portfolio by acquisition and I think we have demonstrated our credentials in that regard."

Journalists’ questions of portfolio gaps came just weeks after Diageo announced it had terminated discussions over the acquisition of Jose Cuervo, the world’s largest tequila brand.

Walsh said: “Regarding gaps: six years ago people might have criticised because we did not have a stronger presence in ultra premium vodka. Look at Cîroc – that was an organic play. We have created the value of that brand by our own work.

“We did acquire an interest in Ketel One, so we will mix and match organic and inorganic plays if we see that there is a gap in our portfolio. But I would say generally there are not very many gaps.”

Responding to questions about the prospect of the Nolet Family taking the option to sell its stake in Ketel One for a tabled US$900m, before the June 2013 deadline, Walsh said: “All I would say is that they are very happy with the relationship, as we are, and I suspect that [take up of the offer] will not happen.”