March 15, 2016 / 8:55 AM / 4 years ago

Italy's Campari to acquire French liqueur maker Grand Marnier

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s Campari (CPRI.MI), the world’s sixth largest spirits company, is to launch a friendly takeover bid for Grand Marnier GDMR.PA valuing the French liqueur maker at 684 million euros ($760 million) as it bets on growth in North America.

A Campari bottle is seen in a bar downtown Milan, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Campari, best known for the eponymous red aperitif and the orange Aperol bitter, has grown through a slew of acquisitions since 1995. It hopes the French brand will help it further cash in on a classic cocktail renaissance among young Americans.

“(Grand Marnier) perfectly fits Campari’s acquisition strategy,” the Italian company said in a statement on Tuesday.

The French brand will join Campari’s portfolio of five higher-margin brands, such as Wild Turkey bourbon and Skyy vodka, whose sales rose 10 percent in the second half of 2015.

Grand Marnier’s sales of finished goods fell 2 percent at constant currencies to 130 million euros last year. But Campari Chief Executive Officer Robert Kunze-Concewitz said the Milanese company had experience in relaunching high potential brands.

“I see the brand delivering some nice growth for us,” Kunze-Concewitz told analysts.

Founded in 1827 by Jean-Baptiste Lapostolle, Grand Marnier reaps about 60 percent of its sales from the United States, which will become Campari’s biggest market after the acquisition ahead of Italy now.

Campari Chief Financial Officer Paolo Marchesini forecast the purchase would drive a double-digit rise in its net income. However, the impact on the current year will be more limited as the company is only due to be consolidated from the second half.

Campari will offer to buy shares in Grand Marnier in cash at 8,050 euros each, a 60 percent premium to the stock value, having already agreed to buy a 17.2 percent stake in the company from the controlling family shareholders.

Bryan Garnier analyst Virginie Roumage said the deal implied a “reasonable” multiple of 13.7 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization.

Campari plans to delist shares in Grand Marnier from the French stock exchange.

The Italian company will also be appointed global and exclusive distributor of Grand Marnier spirits portfolio.

At 1250 GMT shares in Campari rose 0.6 percent, outperforming a 1.3 percent fall in Italian blue-chip index .FTMIB. Shares in Grand Marnier were suspended from trading.

Additional reporting by Valentina Za; editing by David Clarke

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