Diageo to sell off Cinzano

DIAGEO, the drinks group, yesterday put four of its European spirits brands up for sale in a move that could net more than pounds 300m.

The brands include Cinzano, the high-profile vermouth that is number two in its category worldwide.

Also included in the proposed sale are Metaxa, the popular Greek spirit, Asbach brandy and Vecchia Romagna, Italy's best-selling brandy.

Diageo has instructed Warburg Dillon Read to draw up a memoranda for sale to see whether the disposal would be value enhancing for shareholders.

The four brands made an annual profits contribution of pounds 60m after marketing and promotion. Some analysts say the sale could yield up to pounds 350m.

"These four are low quality brands and a sale would complete the rationalisation of Diageo's spirits brands following the GrandMet-Guinness merger," one analyst said.

In a separate statement Diageo said its UDV spirits division will sell four brands of the Greek aniseed spirit ouzo to the Italian drinks maker Gruppo Campari for an undisclosed price.

The moves form part of UDV's strategy to focus its resources behind major growth brands such as Johnnie Walker and J&B scotch whiskies, Smirnoff vodka, Gordon's gin and Baileys liqueur, following deals in North America earlier this year.

Diageo shares closed 30p higher at 718.5p. The stock was boosted by one investment bank yesterday recommending investors to switch into Diageo from rival spirits group Allied Domecq, which reports results tomorrow.

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