What: A report in The Australian Financial Review (AFR) that Wesfarmers Ltd (ASX: WES), the owner of the Coles retail business, has fielded an approach from private equity firms offering to buy the Vintage Cellars liquor retailing business will be music to shareholders’ ears.
So what: While there has been no official response as yet by the conglomerate to the AFR report, speculation that a price tag of $300 million for what is just one retail brand within the wider Coles liquor business creates interesting options for the company.
Recent asset divestments including the $1.8 billion sale of Wesfarmers’ underwriting business to Insurance Australia Group Limited (ASX: IAG) has left the firm flush with cash. Wesfarmers certainly already has plenty of cash and balance sheet flexibility so further asset sales are unnecessary, however with two other liquor brands – Liquorland and First Choice – it could be an opportunity to rationalise and streamline its business and also receive a full price for the Vintage Cellars brand.
Now what: It’s believed that Coles’ management is currently assessing how to go about improving its liquor business which is underperforming compared with the grocery division. It is also in need of rejuvenation to better compete against rival Woolworths Limited’s (ASX: WOW) liquor offering.
Ultimately it will probably come down to price. Wesfarmers has no need to sell the brand but it also has plenty of potential to maximise its returns and its market share of liquor without it. You would almost have to wonder why anyone would want to buy Vintage Cellars and go head-to-head against the retailing giants Coles and Woolies!
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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.