| 13.2°C Dublin

Morgan Stanley ups C&C stake as cider maker mulls UK exit


C & C chief Executive Stephen Glancey

C & C chief Executive Stephen Glancey

C & C chief Executive Stephen Glancey

Influential investment bank Morgan Stanley has responded warmly to C&C's plans to sell its UK division, bumping up its stake in the Bulmers maker by at least €36m.

Until recently the bank owned less than 3pc of C&C. But late last month it hiked this bet to 5.84pc - which at C&C's current share price required a spend of at least €36m.

The move comes as the Irish drinks giant, which is controlled by Scottish native Stephen Glancey, considers selling off its UK cider business, according to one of the company's shareholders.

New York-based business consultants Third Avenue Management, who bought a small stake in C&C earlier in the year, told its clients in a briefing note that the company is currently looking intently at how to address its problems in England and Wales where it suffers from poor distribution.

As well as an outright sale, C&C is also thought to be considering the purchase of another complementary business or partner with a distributor, as it has in Ireland and Scotland.

The shareholder note fits with comments made by C&C chief financial officer Kenny Neison, who suggested - just before the Dublin-based company made a €1bn failed bid for the UK Spirit pub group - that the firm could "downsize" its UK operations if it failed to close the Spirit deal.

C&C's bid for Spirit would have fundamentally changed its UK business, morphing it from a manufacturer into a pub owner.

The move was met by confusion from some analysts and shareholders, who questioned why the company was attempting such a dramatic change of strategy.

Spirit accepted a rival offer from Greene King instead.

"We're very interested in the pubs sector," said Neison, "but we could also look at downsizing the business in England and Wales, and go down the export model.

"It wouldn't necessarily involve job losses."

In January the company, which also counts Tipperary mineral water among its numerous brands issued a profit warning that sent its share price tumbling by 10pc.

It warned that profits for its current fiscal year are likely to be significantly lower than last year.

In the six months to the end of August of last year, revenue from the UK fell by over 12pc to drop under €100m while operating profit was down by 37pc.

It expects operating profits for 2015 to be €115m, down from €126.7m last year, blaming poor supermarket and off-licence sales.

Sunday Indo Business