Diageo’s renewed offer to gain a controlling interest in United Spirits confirms its commitment to emerging markets, following a spate of acquisitions over the last 5 years securing access to local brands and all important routes to market. Initial results have been mixed, with sales in the six months to December 2013 softening below expectations, this however is part and parcel of operating in changeable immature markets, over the long term given demographics and economic development this has to be the right strategy.
Diageo became the largest shareholder in United Sprits in 2012 acquiring a 28.8% stake, exerting considerable influence and gaining a controlling interest has long been anticipated. The attraction for Diageo is clear, by volume India is globally the second largest spirits market behind China and is forecast to experience a 3.5% CAGR between 2013 and 2018, accounting for over 15% of global volume growth. In Diageo’s key whisky category the argument is even more compelling, India is the world’s largest market by volume, almost four times larger than the US in second place. Granted, the vast majority of these sales comprise of low cost local whisky, but there is clear demand for higher value scotch and this will be realised as economic growth continues. In 2013, only 5% of Indian households had an annual disposable income of over US$10,000, but this still equated to 74million, by 2025 this is predicted to increase to 195million.