Friday, January 15, 2010

Diageo's Captain Morgan

While Diageo's (DEO) stock price has gotten a bit expensive (not outrageously expensive...but a bit), it remains a very good business with a wide moat, modest but steady growth prospects and by far the best combination of global distribution and brands among spirits makers. Diageo has 8 of the top 20 global brands. In the short run the global recession has caused some trade down to occur away from the firm's premium brands but this should not be a long-term problem. In the long run it seems reasonable to expect the business to go on producing high returns on capital. Growth will probably be steady but not spectacular.

Diageo's operating margins worldwide approach 30% and are even higher in the U.S. Its brand portfolio includes: Baileys, Tanqueray, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Jose Cuervo, Guinness, and Captain Morgan among others. Most of these brands are number 1 or 2 in their respective categories. By my math approximately 60 million servings of Diageo products are consumed everyday.

This Wall Street Journal article describes the history of Captain Morgan, one of the company's many successful brands and the fastest growing rum brand in the world. Captain Morgan has 25% of the global rum market.

From the article:

Long before Captain Morgan became a hit in the States, it was so associated with serious drinking in Canada that Maritime Provinces slang for a bender is to be "out with the Captain."

John Steinbeck's first novel was "Cup of Gold: A Life of Sir Henry Morgan, Buccaneer, with Occasional Reference to History." In it, he writes of Morgan's plundering and... 

...then pulling his fleet of ships up to an island. Morgan tells his men that he wants to reward them: "He rolled out forty kegs of rum onto the beach." The drunken crews are soon too far gone to notice that Morgan and his core group of pirates have sailed off in the night with all the treasure.

The article references William Geist writing about a Rolling Stones concert...

On the way there, he and a friend stopped at a sketchy liquor store "where a gentleman was passed out on the floor with a smile on his face." In a hurry, Mr. Geist said, "Just give us what he's having." They got a bottle of Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum.

I hear it is pretty good.

Adam

Long position in DEO

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