Henkell Agrees to Take Majority Stake in Freixenet

Cavas Freixenet winery in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia.
Cavas Freixenet winery in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia / Getty

Henkell, the sparkling wine branch of Oetker Group, has signed an agreement to acquire 50.67% of Spain’s Freixenet S.A.’s shares and an “extensive, international cooperation agreement with Freixenet’s remaining shareholders,” according to a joint statement issued Saturday.

Neither family owned company disclosed the terms of the deal, which needs to be approved by antitrust officials. Spanish and German media, noting that the talks have been going on for more than two years, estimated the deal was worth about $270 million.

Freixenet, in addition to its eponymous Spanish Cava, also owns vineyards and other brands in Argentina, Australia, the U.S., Mexico, Spain and France. Henkell, Germany’s most exported wine brand, owns Alfred Gratien Champagne and Italy’s Mionetto Prosecco, among other still wines and spirits brands.

Asked what the deal would mean for U.S. distributors and importers—how many jobs if any would be cut and what savings could be expected—Martina Rothe Obregón, the Freixenet spokeswoman, told Wine Enthusiast in an email that “at this point, we cannot give detailed information about our future collaboration and set-up.

“We are working jointly with Henkell to ensure an optimum outcome, and the plan is to implement this joint enterprise in the upcoming months,” she added.

Vanessa Lehmann, the Henkell spokeswoman, said in an email that it was “too early to speculate” on what the takeover will mean for the U.S. businesses.

“Regarding your question of job cuts, we, Henkell & Co. and Grupo Freixenet, are firmly convinced of the huge potential they have together. By joining forces, we want to become the world’s leading sparkling wine group and continue to grow in the future,” Lehmann said.

“Varying from country to country, over time this may include both organizational and staff changes that we will work on and agree together in a slow and balanced way.”

Freixenet, founded in 1914, is the leader in Cava with its native grapes and use of the “traditional” Champenoise method comprising a second fermentation in the bottle in underground caves. It has a workforce of 1,400 in comparison with Henkell’s 1,922.

“With Henkell, we have found a long-term partner which will strongly reinforce Freixenet and help us to preserve our identity and tradition with an increased international presence,” José Luis Bonet Ferrer, Freixenet Chairman, said in the statement. Bonet, along with former Freixenet CEO José Ferrer Sala, is among the remaining shareholders in the company and covered by the “separate extensive, international cooperation agreement.”

Dr. Albert Christmann, general partner of Dr. August Oetker KG, said: “The Oetker Group consequently continues the expansion of its areas of business. With the acquisition of the shares of Freixenet we will strengthen the international market position of our sparkling wine, wine and spirits division significantly while at the same time we build up a solid base for sustainable joint growth in that business.”

Additional reporting by Anne Krebiehl.

Published on March 19, 2018
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