(Bloomberg) — French distiller Pernod Ricard SA agreed to buy the Whisky Exchange in a move that vaults the maker of Absolut vodka and Havana Club rum into one of the liquor industry’s largest online retailers.
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“What I’m really excited about is that it’s the leading, most credible, most profitable platform in Europe,” Alexandre Ricard, Pernod Ricard’s chief executive officer, said by phone. He confirmed the purchase after Bloomberg requested the company’s comment on the transaction.
Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh, who founded the Whisky Exchange in 1999, will remain at the helm of the business, which will operate as an independent subsidiary. Ricard declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal.
The purchase reflects the rising importance of online spirits sales after pandemic-induced lockdowns led to a shift in consumer behavior. Earlier this year, Uber Technologies Inc. acquired drinks delivery startup Drizly for $1.1 billion, while Aperol maker Davide Campari-Milano NV formed an e-commerce joint venture with LVMH’s spirits division.
Best known for its website, the Whisky Exchange also operates three brick-and-mortar stores in London. It offers a range of almost 4,000 brands of Scotch, whiskey and bourbon, as well as cognac, gin, rum and tequila in more than 30 countries, making it one of the world’s largest e-commerce businesses focused on spirits and a competitor to more generalist vendors like Amazon.com.
Ownership will give Pernod Ricard access to reams of real-time data on consumer demand for specific liquor categories and trending brands, Ricard said. The French distiller’s online sales grew 63% last year, but still account for less than 5% of the group’s revenue.
Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev NV also benefited from the drinking-at-home trend through its ownership of Master of Malt, an online rival of the Whisky Exchange acquired by AB InBev’s venture capital arm in 2018. The same year, Pernod Ricard bought Uvinum, a Barcelona-based e-commerce business it later renamed Drinks & Co.
The Whisky Exchange’s parent company generated sales of 72 million pounds ($98.4 million) in 2020, according to corporate filings.
Pernod Ricard shares rose as much as 1.3% in Paris. They have gained 20% this year.
(Updates with shares)
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