Worldwide beer consumption has increased by over 3% per annum during the last ten years and the top ten brewers now account for over 60% of global beer volume, compared to 38% in 2000. A new report by Rabobank titled ‘Value creation in the Beer Sector through M&A activities’ looks at changes in the beer sector in the last decade. Following consolidation, four leading global brewers have emerged. These four beer companies – AB InBev, SABMiller, Heineken and Carlsberg – have tripled their combined market share since 2000 and have almost quadrupled their volumes.
Most of the rise in worldwide beer consumption has come from rapid growth in Asia, Eastern Europe, South America and Africa, while volume growth in developed markets was negligible. “The major brewers reacted to these changes by entering emerging markets and consolidating in developed markets. This has radically altered the competitive landscape,” says Francois Sonneville, a food & agribusiness analyst at Rabobank. “The most striking change is the emergence of a top-four.”
Do Acquisitions Add Value?
According to Francois Sonneville the strategies of the top-four are similar. By making acquisitions they seek to grow their volumes to benefit from economies of scale. “The advantages of scale have led to improved profitability and the margin development of the top-four has been better than the rest of the market,” he says.
But many brewers outside the top-four are not convinced that acquisitions can add value at today’s prices. Francois Sonneville explains: “Over time, acquisitions have become more expensive. So brewers find it difficult to decide the best course to add value to their business in an increasingly aggressive environment.” Ignoring the developments however is not an option. As the chief executive of one market leader says in the Rabobank report: “You’re either at the table or on the menu.”
The Rabobank analyst acknowledges that the traditional method of comparing the return on capital employed (ROCE) to the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is ideal for predicting value creation, but difficult to use for evaluation purposes. Therefore, a second method, devised specifically for this report, compares the top-four with a constructed peer group of 20 listed major brewers.
The conclusion is that there is no justification for brewers to disregard acquisitions in general for fear of destroying value. A comparison of developments in return on capital employed shows that the acquisition strategy of the top-four brewers not only improved margins, but also led ultimately to value creation. Francois Sonneville continues: “Despite initial pressure on the ROCE from M&A activity, the top-four have managed to outperform the peer group in the long run. So these four have found it better to be at the table than on the menu.”