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Italian wine and turnovers 2022: at the top Cantine Riunite & Civ, Argea and Italian Wine Brands

The numbers of the Pambianco Observatory. A ranking influenced by the many cases of “Mergers and Acquisitions”, which are increasingly frequent

As repeatedly written in many of our articles and analyses, 2022, for Italian wine, despite the long wave of Covid, the war in Ukraine, the soaring cost of energy and raw materials and out-of-control inflation, went better than expected. And the reconfirmation, on the eve of Vinitaly 2023, staged April 2-5 in Verona, also comes from the analysis of the turnovers of the 15 largest wine companies in Italy, signed by Pambianco, which points out that “the large companies of the made-in-Italy wine industry have not only rejected the difficulties but have also grown, outlining a sector capable of increasing its turnover. In fact, if one considers the sum of turnovers, the average growth was 9%, going from just under 3.9 billion euros to just over 4.2 billion”.
Leading the ranking, a sextet that perfectly follows the hierarchies of the past fiscal year, there is always Cantine Riunite & Civ, which alone, on the strength of its 1,500 members and 4,000 hectares under vine, recorded 261 million euros (+10%) in turnover but which, also including Gruppo Italiano Vini (Giv) and foreign distribution companies, such as the French Carniato and the U.S.-based Frederick Wildman & Sons, was able to reach 650 million euros, or 5% more than in 2021. It was followed by Argea, which surpassed 455 million euros (up 8%) thanks in part to the acquisition of Abruzzo-based Cantina Zaccagnini in October 2022 and finalized just today, for growth that would otherwise have been at 2%. Completing the podium remains firmly Iwb (Italian Wine Brands, ed.), which, by the way, is also the only company in the ranking traded on the Italian stock exchange in Milan. For it, the financial statements just filed speak of a revenue pool of just over 430 million euros (+5%). Again, decisive were the acquisitions: in this case, those of Enovation Brands and Barbanera. In fourth position, there is Caviro, which, with an evolution of 7%, abundantly exceeded 400 million. A performance sustained by the alternative activities to wine, as evidenced by the +10% in the traditional sector (alcohol, musts and tartaric acid, which, together, generate 21% of total sales) and the +25% in the “energy and environment” segment (which, on the other hand, is worth 18% of the total).
As in 2022, there is then Cavit, the only company in the top 15 to record a very slight -2% drop caused by the progressive post-pandemic settlement and less generous growth in the North American market, had to stop at almost 265 million euros. And this while behind it Santa Margherita Gruppo Vinicolo has almost completely recovered the 50 million or so euros that separated them. This is because the Veneto-based group, with 18% growth achieved in part through the acquisition of Roco Winery (Oregon) through its subsidiary Santa Margherita USA, managed to exceed 260 million euros. And here also closes what we could call the sextet of consolidations.
From seventh place onward some movement in the ranking there has been and, more importantly, there will be in the future considering that 2022 has practically gathered three companies in a handkerchief of three million euros. First among them is the Marchesi Antinori group with 240 million euros, which, thanks to the entry of the newly acquired Jermann into the perimeter, marked a growth of 13%. That said, it should be noted that the result declared by the Tuscan group takes into account only wine sold, excluding other activities, such as distribution and hospitality, which would instead guarantee a fifth-place volume. However, this is enough to gain a position at the expense of Fratelli Martini Secondo Luigi, which, pushed by its main brands Canti and Sant'Orsola, still grew by 8% for a turnover of 237.6 million euros. The latter figure, however, needs to be interpreted because the Piedmontese company is in the midst of an accounting revolution that has led it to opt for a June balance sheet closing. Hence the decision to estimate the twelve monthly payments by adding up the last two half-year periods, which, however, now belong to two different fiscal years. In ninth place, instead, rises La Marca Vini e Spumanti, which gains two positions thanks to the best performance of the year, +32% sustained by exports that catapults it from 180 to 237 million euros. More detached is Gruppo Mezzacorona which, despite a 213 million euro balance sheet, up 9%, achieved thanks to the good performance of Trento doc and the post-Covid return of markets such as Canada and Japan, is still in tenth place.
The one who comes out of the top 10, on the other hand, is the Zonin1821 Group, which, in the midst of the upward repositioning of the brands in its portfolio, stops at 199.95 million euros, with a situation of substantial breakeven (+1%), while Terre Cevico comes close to 190 million with double-digit growth of 15%, also considering the significant contribution of the partnership with Orion Wines, a Trentino company with properties also in Puglia.
Then there is the Frescobaldi group, which, with 153 million euros, is the first new entry of the year. This result was achieved with 17% growth accrued by the intervention of the newly acquired Tenuta Calimaia and Tenuta Corte alla Flora, as well as by the opening in Bordeaux of a representative office for its top-of-the-line wineries. Slightly more detached, then two realities that testify to the excellent moment of Italian bubblies: first that of the Metodo classico, with the almost 152 million euros of the Lunelli Group, and next, there is the way of Prosecco, which is expressed here with the second new face of the top 15 bearing the signature of Villa Sandi.
From the analysis, as well as from the daily reports via WineNews, also comes confirmation of wine as an attractive asset for investment, but 2023 calls for more caution. This, in a nutshell, emerges from the study, conducted by the Pambianco Observatory on the sector, which showed that transactions increased from 7 in 2020, 10 in 2021, 19 in 2022. The picture of Italian mergers & acquisitions in the wine world is this: a sector that, with the passage of time, and thanks to greater awareness, is responding to an increasingly important need for growth. Asking for it is an internationalization of markets that imposes different magnitudes and organizations to the past.
Hence the push toward a path of investment made mainly by external lines with the intervention of finance, processes of an industrial nature and, finally, with diversification logics that in Italy, especially in this first part of 2023, are identified in the operations completed by groups such as that of Calzedonia, which through its subsidiary Signorvino acquired La Giuva, a winery in Valpolicella, and that of Renzo Rosso (Otb) on Barolo producer Josetta Saffirio. Renzo Rosso's path that through his Red Circle is beginning to be structured in an accomplished way, both because he has created the holding company Brave Wine, which has in fact completed the operation in the Langhe, and because the entrepreneur from Vicenza, who also has Diesel Farm in his portfolio and controls 10% of Masi Agricola, in October 2022 also entered 40% in the capital of Benanti, a production reality from Etna. The latter path appears to be increasingly aligned with that of French luxury tycoons Bernard Arnault and François Pinault, with the former directly integrating the wine & spirits segment into his Lvmh, while the latter demotes interventions to the family safe Artemis.
Returning to the 2022 transactions, and going back in time, also in October was that of Argea, a group controlled by the Clessidra fund, which took over Cantina Zaccagnini, an Abruzzo-based company with a turnover of 27 million euros (2021). Also in the shadow of Gran Sasso, but in September, changing hands was Tenuta Ulisse, an 11.7 million euro 2021 company whose 70 percent stake ended up in the portfolio of private equity firm White Bridge Investments II for an estimated enterprise value of 43 million euros. And again, in July, in a €60 million deal in Tuscany, Fattoria Villa Saletta in Palaia took over Pontedera's San Gervasio; a month earlier, on the other hand, the French Epi, former owners of Biondi Santi, integrated the Isole e Olena estate into their portfolio.
This spring, in May, the Prosit Group, led by Sergio Dagnino, acquired Casa Vinicola Caldirola, a €40 million-plus entity from Lecco that controls the La Cacciatora brand. This transaction is in addition to one from earlier this year, when the group participated by Quadrivio & Pambianco's Made in Italy Fund had bought Cantina di Montalcino. In April, on the other hand, it was Tuscan Piccini 1882 that invested, and it did so in the Langhe by buying the brand, including its historical archive, Porta Rossa. Scrolling down the calendar, in March, Treviso-based Pizzolato bought Casale III, while Fast Time, a company specializing in import and distribution, acquired sparkling wine producer 900wine in Valdobbiadene. In January, on the other hand, Bell'Aja, a company owned by Agricola San Felice and controlled by the Allianz Group, made Batzella and its 7.5 hectares of vineyards between Castagneto Carducci and Bolgheri its own, while Hyle Capital Partners, through its Finance for Food One fund, entered the capital of Contri Spumanti.
The mentioned transactions mark the beginning of a new phase for the wine world, which, for this very reason, makes the values of acquisitions still rather uneven even though, of course, the common denominator remains the multiple on gross operating margin (ebitda).
Attracting capital are not only wineries and bottlers, but also those who trade wine. Among the operations in the sector, the most famous is the 50/50 joint venture created in July 2021 by Campari Group and Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of Lvmh, which, in the last 12 months, has risen to 100 percent of the capital of Tannico, of which it already held 62.1 percent. Or even champagne maison Pol Roger, which took over 20 percent of Italian distributor Compagnia del Vino, while listed Italian Wine Brands acquired 85 percent of U.S. importer Enovation Brands. All this is looking at the birth of Veraison Group through the merger of Salvaterra, Progetti Agricoli and 4Ru.

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