Venerable tequila maker Jose Cuervo aims for $1 billion IPO

September 27, 2016 11:57 AM EDT

A man reaches for a bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila in Mexico City December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

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By Gabriel Stargardter and Natalie Schachar

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's Jose Cuervo, the world's largest tequila producer, on Tuesday announced its long-awaited initial public offering, which could raise up to $1 billion, another sign of a wider revival in Latin American stock flotations.

Cuervo, North America's dominant tequila brand, could generate investor interest by virtue of its two-centuries-old tradition, the fashion for premium tequila at the expense of vodka, as well as a return to growth in the key U.S. market after several years of decline.

"Jose Cuervo has managed to capitalize (on the market) pretty well, mostly because of their brands, but also because it's one of the oldest tequila companies in Mexico," said MetAnalisis analyst Gerardo Copca, adding he thought the timing was right to launch an IPO.

Copca noted there have been only two or three IPOs in Mexico this year, though the country was one of the few bright spots last year in a generally bleak world climate for stock flotations.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the long-dormant Brazilian IPO market has also shown signs of revival.

The filing provided few details about the IPO, but a source familiar with the situation suggested the company could seek to raise between $500 million and $1 billion.

The company, known officially as Becle, said the stock sale would be handled by the local units of Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), JP Morgan Chase & Co (NYSE: JPM) and Banco Santander (NYSE: SAN), and local brokerage GBM Grupo Bursatil Mexicano.

Along with the Mexico bourse flotation, the company also plans a private placement to investors in the United States, where the tequila market has increasingly been shifting toward high-end 100 percent agave brands.

Cuervo, which said in its prospectus that the offering's proceeds will be used to fund organic and external growth, and broaden its portfolio, has also moved toward such premium brands, taking on rivals including Diageo, with which it once had a distribution deal.

UK-based Diageo (AMEX: DGE) tried to buy Jose Cuervo in 2012, when analysts valued the company at around $3 billion.

In 2015 Diageo (AMEX: DGE) swapped its Bushmills Irish whiskey brand for Cuervo's 50 percent stake in their Don Julio premium tequila joint venture.

Started by Jose Antonio de Cuervo in the late 1700s before Mexican independence from Spain, Jose Cuervo claims to be North America's oldest continually producing spirits.

With origins in the picturesque town of Tequila in Jalisco state, the business is now controlled by the Beckmann family, who married into the Cuervos a century ago. They will remain the majority shareholder after the IPO.

In the filing, the company said it had 2015 sales of nearly 20 billion pesos ($1.02 billion), up about a quarter from 2014. In the first half of 2016, Cuervo had revenue of 12.2 billion pesos, while net profit in 2015 was 5.3 billion pesos.

Cuervo has returned to U.S. growth, rising 3 percent to 3.5 million cases, according to trade publication Shanken News Daily, and remains about two-thirds larger than its closest rivals there, Sauza and Patron.

The company said the United States and Canada represent about two-thirds of its sales, while Mexico generates just over a fifth of revenue.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Hirsch and Martinne Geller; Writing by Christian Plumb; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Alan Crosby)

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