Could Brazil’s richest man be looking to quench his thirst with Johnnie Walker Scotch and Smirnoff vodka?
A report over the weekend speculated that the world’s largest liquor company, U.K.-based Diageo, could be a takeover target for billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann, who already owns a stake in beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD). Citing a news magazine in Brazil, Bloomberg said rumors of the deal boosted Diageo’s shares by as much as 8.7% and lifted the liquor company’s market value to about $73 billion. For now, the deal is a rumor, as representatives for both Lemann and Diageo have declined to comment. Fortune has also reached out to Diageo, and will update if a statement is issued.
Lemann, a co-founder of private equity firm 3G Capital, and his peer partners have developed a taste for the food and beverage industry. Beyond their stake in InBev, 3G is known for a leveraged buyout of Burger King in 2010, the 2013 acquisition of H.J. Heinz with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B), and a deal announced earlier this year to merge Kraft Foods (KRFT) with Heinz.
If a deal were to occur, it would be the largest the spirits industry has seen since Japan-based Suntory paid $16 billion to buy U.S. whiskey maker Beam.
Diageo generated nearly $16 billion in annual sales in the company’s latest fiscal year. Roughly half of the company’s volume is from the North America and Western Europe markets, with 28% of net sales coming from Scotch. But the Scotch category has faced challenges, particularly in the U.S. where domestic spirits have performed well. Diageo and other large liquor companies have also faced some challenges in China. Craft distillers, meanwhile, are disrupting more established markets.