Molson Coors has appointed Bank of America to conduct a strategic review of its global businesses, with a disposal of its European operations heavily anticipated, dealreporter.comreported on Tuesday. The move is consistent with its recent restructuring plan and strategic shift away from beer towards beverages as a whole, as was also demonstrated by the name change from Molson Coors Brewing Co. to Molson Coors Beverage Co. effective on Jan 1, 2020 (inside.beer, 30.10.2019).
“Representing less than 20% of global sales, the European division, operating in the UK and CEE, has long been talked about as an eventual sale candidate,” stated dealreporter.com. In October last year, inside.beer already reported about a closer cooperation with its rival Asahi Group Holdings in Europe, namely for the business in the former socialist countries in eastern Europe. The two companies were reputedly in open discussions about either a sales cooperation, a swap of companies or even a merger of the respective businesses (inside.beer, 30.10.2019)
However, timing of a potential sale after the corona lockdown with depressed sales is not ideal and a partial sale of the largely independent UK business centered around the Carling brand and the East European business with Staropramen as its top brand seems to be a likely option. Private equity houses would be the most likely bidders, as large bidders from within the industry could face antitrust issues.
Molson Coors’ former CEO Mark Hunter, who retired last year after a 36-year career with the last 30 years in the beer business, was considered a promoter of the European business. He worked with Bass Brewers in the UK before joining Molson Coors when his company was acquired by the American brewing group in 2002. He played a key role in every significant event in the company’s recent history, including the acquisition of the Carling business in the UK in 2002, the merger of two iconic brands and families Molson and Coors in 2005, the formation of its US joint venture, MillerCoors, in 2008, and the acquisition of AB InBev’s former Central and Eastern European business in 2012, which the brewing giant already sold in in 2009 to private equity group CVC Capital Partners (inside.beer, 31.7.2019).
His successor, Gavin Hatterley, who served before as President and Chief Executive Officer of MillerCoors in the U.S., is considered as not very much affected to the European business. In addition the European assets realize no marketing or production synergies with the North American business.
A partial or entire sale could free cash which Molson Coors will need to pursue the new investment and product diversification strategy. Molson Coors declined to comment on the rumors.