Source: Olly Wehring, Managing Editor
A look at the top stories on just-drinks last week saw two spirits companies in similar situations, poised to offload their crown jewels to lighten the millstone of debt around their necks.
First up, Belvedere, for whom the word 'embattled' feels of late like it had been invented for, was thought to be considering a sale of its Sobieski vodka brand. Seeing as Sobieski is the major reason that the company is still afloat, this is not the most likeliest of stories. Unless, things have got that bad for Belvedere?
Then, United Spirits refused to rule out the divestment of a stake in Whyte & Mackay. The Indian company, part of The UB Group with embattled (there it is) airline Kingfisher, has troubles of its own, driven in part by its purchase of Whyte & Mackay at the height of the credit boom in 2007, for US$1.18bn. This one may be a bit more believable: United Spirits has a healthy chunk of the Indian spirits market to fall back on. That said, loss of face may be the major stumbling block to such a move for owner Vijay Mallya.
A last resort, perhaps?
Last week saw the publication, finally, of our first management briefing to look at environmental sustainability in the sectors of our industry. February's opus, written by Ben Cooper, looks at the brewing sector. Later this year, we will have three more such briefings, looking at spirits, bottled water & soft drinks and wine. If you'd like your company's efforts in this area documented, email me at email@example.com.
Finally, this week is the last for our deputy editor, Chris Mercer. Having started a part-time MA in food policy late last year, Chris has run out of hours in the day, so is going freelance. Since joining just-drinks in July 2008, Chris has established himself as a well-informed, well-placed authority on the global drinks industry. As a freelance journalist, we will still be making regular use of his musings on just-drinks but, as a full-time member of our team, he will be missed.
Chris' replacement is standing under a silken throw, ready to be unveiled to all next week.