(Portland, OR) – It’s been a busy August thus far for Craft Brewers Alliance, Inc.
The brewery group started the month off by announcing the acquisition of Kona Brewing. Q2 earnings were announced last week and the company held its conference call this morning. The big story of the month, however, may have been yesterday’s piece over at The Street about AB-InBev being interested in acquiring the group of craft brewers. So what does it all mean? Let’s go through it.
First, AB-InBev. Washington Street, a CBA minority shareholder, provides insight on why the mega-brewer might be interested in acquiring CBA. For now, it’s just speculation but it’s not far-fetched considering AB-InBev owns approximately one-third of CBA. :
“Anheuser-Busch sees major national growth potential in several of Craft’s beers — namely Widmer Drifter and Kona Longboard Island Lager, according to Peterson — and could benefit in the long run if Craft’s value, and the value of the beer brands it produces, increases.”
On CBA’s health status . . . the stock price has increased significantly this month with the acquisition of Kona and anticipation of earnings. Earnings turned out to be a mixed bag, however. Profit was relatively the same for Q2 2010 but should be helped going forward now that AB and CBA just re-negotiated their distribution deal. The result is approximately a 30% fee discount in which AB picks up a small chunk of CBA shares as part of the exchange.
Shipments of Redhook and Widmer were relatively even compared to the prior year period. Though shipments bounced back from Q1, they are still lagging mightily from a growth percentage perspective behind high performing peers like Samuel Adams and Sierra Nevada.
Widmer Hefeweizen sales have been flat so far this year according to IRI data. On today’s conference call, management attributed this to the effect that the economy has had on Hefe on-premise sales. Meanwhile, IRI figures show that Redhook ESB sales continue to drop. On the other hand, two brands that are performing especially well are Widmer Drifter Pale Ale and Kona Long Board Lager.
The latter part is especially important because the Kona acquisition takes the brand from being 20% CBA-owned to a wholly-owned subsidiary. CBA has had trouble filling the additional capacity that it has gained since this time last year (down to 74% utilization) and the Kona acquisition should help fill it. That Hawaii-based brewery is easily the highest-performing of the three brands at this time, growing on par with its craft brewing industry peers at a rate of approximately 10%.
The other play here is Goose Island (a.k.a. Fulton Street Brewery in CBA financial statements). The brewery has already discontinued two core brands and cited capacity constraints as a reason for discontinuing a popular holiday seasonal, Goose Island Christmas Ale. To that end, it is surprising that CBA and GI haven’t arranged to brew GI beers at CBA facilities yet given the excess capacity. At the moment, GI remains 42% owned by CBA and the only affiliation with CBA is still the AB distribution deal.
CBA is up 23% through May in the Northeast as the group rolls out its brands into the area. This is paced by significant Widmer growth in Massachusetts.
On the West Coast, CBA hopes to boost sales with the addition of seasonal 12-packs. This will start with the launch of Widmer Brothers Brrr packs in late September.