Far East liquor firms top list of most valuable Asian F&B companies

Far East liquor firms top list of most valuable Asian F&B companies

Baiju liquor producer Kweichow Moutai has been named Asia’s leading food and beverage manufacturer in an analysis of market capitalisations in the region.

Its current valuation of US$86.5 follows a leap of 119% over the last five years.

The Shanghai firm’s value now dwarfs that of fellow distiller Wuliangye Yibin which, with a market cap of US$30.7bn, is second on a list that also features liquor companies in all the top positions.

Kirin Holdings and Asahi Group, worth US$19.8bn and US$19.1bn respectively, place Japanese drinks firms in third and fourth place.

The biggest Asian manufacturer outside the beverage segment, in fifth, is dairy major Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group.

Kweichow Moutai has watched its fortunes change dramatically since it struggled for net profit in 2014-15 after a government anti-graft drive pulled the bottom out of the baiju business.

Baiju, a traditional Chinese spirit traditionally lavished as a gift to bureaucrats, had been linked by President Xi Jinping with corrupt practices and quickly became taboo among officials.

According to Nikkei, which analysed the industry’s market caps, Kweichow Moutai’s turnaround came after it shifted focus and pricing towards ordinary drinkers in the low-to-mid-range section of the market.

By moving away from its mainstay of premium products that are sold for hundreds of dollars, and into the tens-of-dollars market, the company has seen its earnings surge by around 20%.

Likewise, the market cap for Shenzhen-listed Wuliangye Yibin, another baiju specialist, has grown by 44% over the past five years by following a similar strategy.

Thai Beverage, with a market cap worth US$16.9bn following 130% over the last five years, is the top non-Far East company on the list, in seventh place.

Once again, Singapore-listed ThaiBev has changed its focus—albeit from liquor to soft drinks after its 2013 acquisition of Fraser and Neave, a fizzy beverages manufacturer.

Elsewhere, Vietnam’s Vinamilk was one of the biggest climbers, having seen its market cap leap up by 320% over the past five years. After several overseas plays, including the opening of the first dairy products plant in Cambodia, Vinamilk is now worth US$9.7 billion. 

In Southeast Asia, demand for soft drinks, snacks and dairy products is expected to keep climbing, Nikkei said. 

This is backed up by the performance of Indonesia's Indofood CBP Sukses Makmur, which has seen its market cap soar by 84%, thanks in part to brisk dairy operations and its acquisition of Danone Dairy Indonesia. 

On the flip-side, Tingyi (Cayman Islands) Holding, the Hong Kong-listed instant-noodle major, has watched its market cap slide by 53% as foreign companies have arrived to take its share. The business’s sweetened tea drinks, meanwhile, have struggled to maintain their appeal as the healthy eating trend starts to bite among its consumers. 

Other companies could face similar struggles as food options grow more diverse and diners' palates grow more sophisticated, Nikkei said. Unless, that is, they keep up with changing trends.

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