Secretary Sells Too Soon

The Distell company secretary had a busy May, selling over R6 million worth of stock. A lead followed by other directors who offloaded large this month. Yet with the recent weakness of the rand, the largest liquor corporate in SA must be coining it. So are the directors selling too soon?

Secretary shania 225x300 Secretary Sells Too Soon

Sales to Asia are flying with a big deal in the east about to be revealed. Nederburg surfs a MasterChef tsunami, Two Oceans floods into Canada and Amarula nimbly sidesteps a tax furore in which the largest SA wine impresario appears in court for the Receiver of Revenue. Interesting times, interesting alliances with Quoin Rock worth a Carte Blanche program or three.

Yet the biggest boost for Distell is about to become a reality – a turnaround in the spirit world. Lex, best column in the Weekend Financial Times by the proverbial country mile, predicts Cognac sales will increase 17% over the next decade, making it the top performing global spirit. Which makes Distell’s purchase of Bisquit at the bottom of the market, look inspired. For if Dominique Hebrard can sell his Samalens Armagnac “like pancakes” to Chinese drinkers, as he boasted at VinExpo Asia last month, how much more successful will dynamic Marius Fouché be in the same market with a more fashionable brand?

Diageo plans to spend £1 billion expanding Scotch production over the next five years. They’ve obviously read the same Goldman Sachs report as the FT, predicting that whisky sales will rise 13% in the next decade, down somewhat from the 50% rise over the last five years.

As the FT explains “much of the industry’s optimism is based on the logic that over the next 20 years, 2bn new consumers will become wealthy enough to want to drink something that shows how far they have risen in the world. Scotch, especially single malt whisky, has the heritage image that makes it an aspirational product. Emerging markets already make up 40 per cent of global premium spirit sales by value, twice as much as a decade ago.”

Well Distell have already invested big in their Three Ships distillery in Wellington a couple of years ago and results are spectacular: Three Ships Premium Select 5 year old, a blend of Scotch and local whiskies, was voted World’s Best Blended Whisky at the annual Whisky Magazine World Whisky Awards 2012.

No Mr. Secretary. Methinks you sold too early. But then as billionaire Bernard Baruch noted “I made my money by selling too soon.”

The author is a shareholder in CapeVin International and CapeVin Holdings.