Beam listed as a pure-play drinks firm on 4 October after being spun out of Fortune Brands, but is seen as an attractive buy as its rivals look for a foothold in the lucrative bourbon market.
Goldman Sachs said its stock would attract an M&A premium and gave it a 30 to 50 per cent likelihood of being bought by a rival, arguing that it would attract a valuation of up to $59 (£37) per share in a bid situation. That would value Beam at $10.8bn, putting it on a part with deals such as SABMiller’s $12.4bn takeover of brewer Foster’s and Pernod Ricard’s $17.8bn takeover of Allied Domecq in 2005.
“We believe Beam has strategic appeal in a consolidating spirits industry while also lacking acquisition obstacles such as not being a standalone company (Moet Hennessy) or being family owned (Brown-Forman, Remy Cointreau, Campari, Bacardi),” Goldman analysts said.
But Diageo, the world’s biggest alcoholic drinks maker, and Pernod-Ricard, with $14.2bn of debt, would face hurdles to such an ambitious deal. “We will continue to look at opportunities for acquisitions where we see a chance to strengthen our company,” a Diageo spokesperson said.
Beam, now the world’s fifth-largest drinks producer, said it expected to remain independent.
“The new Beam is off to a great start, and we see a bright and prosperous future as a standalone company,” a Beam spokesman said.