C&C Group toasts Matthew Clark acquisition as it eyes London listing

More than a year on from its acquisition of Matthew Clark and Bibendum, drinks distributor and Magners cider maker C&C Group has toasted a successful turnaround as it eyes a place on the FTSE 250.

In an interview with PA, C&C chief executive Stephen Glancey also admitted that Brexit had played a role in the timing of the company’s recent decision to switch to a London listing, but called it a “side issue”.

Current shareholders based in the UK are likely to find a sole London listing easier once the UK leaves the EU.

“We’re now the biggest distributor of beverages in the British Isles,” he said.

“We are Irish-domiciled, Irish-headquartered, Irish taxpayers, but since the Matthew Clark acquisition, it would be best to investigate the possibility of a London listing.”

The firm announced earlier this month that it was seeking to abandon its dual-listed status by leaving Euronext Dublin and trading solely on the London Stock Exchange.

It comes just over a year after the company acquired Matthew Clark and Bibendum, which had previously formed the distribution arm of the collapsed drinks firm Conviviality.

Having returned the business to “normalised levels” immediately following the takeover, Mr Glancey said C&C was now trying to undo some of the changes made to the businesses while they were under the Conviviality umbrella.

“This year we’re trying to simplify the business, to get it back to where it was in 2015, through cost reduction, warehouse efficiencies and getting control of finances,” he said.

The head offices of the two businesses have been separated once again after being combined under Conviviality’s strategy.

By moving to a London listing, C&C hopes to open up to a “deep pool” of investors, which will help it with future plans.

Mr Glancey said that next year’s focus will be “optimisation” as the group invests in technology and sustainability efforts.

The company is also prepared to take advantage of a no-deal Brexit, should any overseas drinks manufacturers face problems getting products into the UK.

Mr Glancey said there is spare capacity at C&C’s Glasgow brewery, the home of Tennent’s Lager, where other brands could be brewed under licence.

In the group’s own brands, growth is set to come from innovation in Britain’s booming cider market.

“You’re getting a move to flavours and differentiation,” Mr Glancey said. “If you look at the cider market in the UK, the fruit flavours – especially Strongbow Dark Fruits – has driven the category and brought in a few new entrants. Apple cider has declined but we’ve picked up market share.”

Last month C&C launched a pink version of Magners, tapping into increased consumer demand for pink gins and rose wines.

Commenting on the outlook for the company, Mr Glancey brushed off uncertainty over consumer confidence in the wake of Brexit.

“At the end of the day, no matter economics, people socialise. They go out and eat and drink, they go to hotels.”