According to food industry consultant Technomic, Skinnygirl was the fastest growing brand of spirits in the U.S. in 2011, selling 586,000 9-liter cases. Americans bought 3.5% more spirits in 2011 than the year before. The Skinnygirl brand was created by reality star Bethenny Frankel and sold to Beam Inc. (NYSE:BEAM) in 2011. In terms of U.S. market share, Beam is second only to Diageo (NYSE:DEO) at 9.8%.
As a rum lover, I don't particularly care for either of Beam's brands (Cruzan, Ronrico) or Diageo's (Captain Morgan). Instead, I prefer the Cuban flavors of Havana Club, a 50/50 partnership between Pernod-Ricard (OTCBB:PDRDY.PK) and the Cuban government. I'm able to enjoy their rums, which are unavailable in the U.S. Pernod-Ricard, the world's leading seller of premium and prestige spirits is traded over-the-counter. For those interested in something other than the pink sheets, here are three additional ways to play its stock.
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Option # 1
In May 2011, Power Corporation (OTCBB:PWCDF.PK) looked like a stock with hidden value in its stock. As a holding company that owns majority control of several Canadian financial institutions through Power Financial (TSX:PWF.TO) as well as separate investments in Canada, Europe and Asia, it tends to trade at a discount because of its conglomerate-like structure. Pernod-Ricard comes into play through its 50% interest in another holding company, Parjointco NV, which is based in the Netherlands.
Parjointco owns 76% of Pargesa Holding's voting rights and 56.5% of its equity. Pargesa in turn owns 52% of Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, itself a holding company on the Brussels Stock Exchange. GBL, for short, owns 7.5% of Pernod-Ricard stock after recently selling 6.2 million shares for a capital gain of 240 million euros. At the end of this convoluted trail, Power Corporation shareholders end up with slightly less than 1% of Pernod-Ricard's shares without paying an annual management fee like you would with a mutual fund or ETF. In addition, you get a stock whose dividend yield is 4.4% as of May 4, and higher than it's been for most of the last decade. Income investors will definitely like the stability of its dividend payout.
SEE: The Advantages of Mutual Funds
Even though it is the second largest liquor company in the world, there aren't too many options when it comes to exchange-traded funds. The first of two ETF options is the SPDR S&P International Consumer Staples Sector ETF (ARCA:IPS), which owned 2.49 million shares as of the end of March, representing a 1.7% weighting. Other alcohol-related companies in the fund's holdings include Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE:BUD), Carlsberg A/S, Foster's Group, Asahi Breweries, Kirin Holdings, Diageo, Heineken NV and SABMiller. While mostly focused on beer companies, Pernod-Ricard and Diageo are almost 7% of the fund's assets, giving investors a reasonable representation of the global liquor business, not to mention other great businesses like Nestle and Danone. I'd take this fund over the next suggestion because it's global in nature.
SEE: An Inside Look At ETF Construction
Option # 3
As recently 2004, a closed-end fund traded on the New York Stock Exchange that owned Pernod-Ricard stock. Unfortunately, the France Growth Fund Inc., managed by Credit Agricole Asset Management, was liquidated in June of that year. The next and best bet is to own the iShares MSCI France Index Fund (ARCA:EWQ), which replicates the holdings and performance of the index of the same name. At present, Pernod-Ricard's weighting represents 2.29% of the 73-stock portfolio. It's questionable how many investors would want to buy this country-specific fund over Germany, but for those who want to benefit from the continued success Pernod-Ricard is experiencing in the global liquor business, this is a third way to do so.
SEE: Open Your Eyes To Closed-End Funds
The Bottom Line
In recent years, Pernod-Ricard's focused its efforts on its Top 14 brands, which includes Havana Club. In the first six months of fiscal 2012 ending Dec. 31, 2011, its Top 14 brands generated 61% of its sales, growing 9% year-over-year in terms of volume and 14% in terms of value. It continues to grow profits at double-digit rates, allowing it to pay down some of the debt it incurred by buying Absolute Vodka in 2008. While Diageo is more popular with investment managers, that shouldn't stop you from considering its equally successful competitor. Both companies are at the top of their games these days.
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At the time of writing, Will Ashworth did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.