Two things happened to Pernod Ricard in 2008: it bought Absolut Vodka for €5.6 billion, and the group’s non-family CEO took over when the family head suddenly died. Two other things happened in 2015: a family member re-took the reins – the founder’s 43-year-old grandson Alexandre Ricard – and sales of Absolut dipped by 5%.
The logic of the market might suggest that investors should run a mile. If a company’s biggest brand looks to be moving out of fashion – and a taste for craft brews and bourbons in the US suggests it could be – the share-price might be expected to look unhealthy. Add in a new CEO who, critics might say, has the job because of genetics rather than talent (not to mention a family which owns 14% of shares, but has 28% of voting rights) and investors would be forgiven for selling.
Instead, the share-price is at an all-time high. It has increased 20% since Alexandre, the grandson of the founder, took over at the start of the year. In fact, it has been on the up ever since 2012, when it was announced that he would take the job. True, it dipped this week, but the chart – below – still looks perkier than a weary drinker after his first tipple of the evening. Investors obviously like something, and so do analysts, with almost all calling it a buy, and several predicting a further 20% share-price rise.
Why? It is not because of general enthusiasm for the sector. The share-prices of rival drinks giants Diageo and United Spirits Ltd have enjoyed no comparable rise. The only thing that has changed at Pernod Ricard is the leadership. Since Alexandre took over, the company has launched premium versions of three of its biggest brands – Absolut, Chivas and Glenlivet – which aim to increase the company’s relatively low share of the US market, where it has 11% compared to 27% globally.
The company confidently predicts 4-5% growth in the medium-term. Some commentators are sceptical, but investors evidently trust the man whose name is over the door to deliver.