Diageo (DEO), the world's leading producer of premium spirits, owns eight of the world's top 20 brands and a distribution network that covers 180 countries. It also produces and markets beer and wine.
The London-based company was formed from the merger of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness in 1997. Its brands include Guinness stout, Smirnoff vodka, Tanqueray and Gordon's gins, Captain Morgan rum, Baileys Irish Cream, and Johnnie Walker and J&B scotch. Diageo also owns 34% of premium Champagne and cognac maker Moet Hennessy.Morningstar, which gives it a three-star rating out a possible five, says: "We like the firm's focus on premium brands, but we expect growth to be harder to achieve over the next few years than it has been in the past, and we worry that the weak economy could provoke management to make a pricey acquisition." But Standard & Poor's analysts are more optimistic. They give its shares a "buy" recommendation with four out a possible five-star rating. It assigns a 12-month price target of $86. Shares were recently trading at around $75. S&P's review of other analysts' ratings found two "buys," one "buy/hold" and two "holds." For fiscal 2011, those analysts estimate that Diageo will earn $5.16 per share and that will grow by 7% to $5.53 per share in 2012. As of March 11, its shares are up 4% this year and 19% over the past 12 months, bringing its market value to $48 billion. Diageo's shares have a hefty 2.5% dividend yield.