Angus Aitken took a short trip from the Aitken Mount Capital Partners offices to Dan Murphy’s high-end Sydney CBD store on Martin Place – and he appears to be unimpressed about what he saw.
In a note to his clients on Thursday morning, the outspoken stockbroker wrote: “My god there is some expensive booze in there … the only thing missing was people actually buying the expensive booze.”
“I have no idea how a business model based on selling $1k buck bottles of Super Tuscans to Senior Counsel was thought up,” he added.
It is not the first time Aitken has waded into an increasingly acrimonious stoush between Dan Murphy’s owner, Endeavour, and the company’s largest shareholder, the billionaire publican Bruce Mathieson. In October, he said the company, which also owns pubs and the BWS chain, was under-earning.
“When we first wrote about it a week or so ago, we said [Endeavour] needs to change the board and CEO or the stock is going nowhere, and the stock continues to drift lower and the stock price is so underwhelming … you can see why people think it could be taken private,” Aitken wrote in a new note this week, in which he calls for management and the board to change.
“When a sporting team is doing badly, coming bottom of the ladder, there are calls for new players, coaches and the like and usually new team members and coaches improve the performance of that club. Listed companies are no different,” his note reads.
“I cannot think of more dominant assets that are under earning vs their market dominance in the Australian industrial sector, but the current people are clearly not the team to deliver that potential.”
Aitken’s intervention comes one day after Woolworths, Endeavour’s largest shareholder with a 9.1 per cent stake, said it would back the liquor retailers board and vote against its former executive, Bill Wavish, who is running for election at the annual meeting next week with Mathieson’s backing.
Woolworths chief executive Brad Banducci said the company was closely monitoring its investment, but remained “very supportive” of the board and management and declined to comment on Endeavour’s strategy.
Wavish and Mathieson have criticised the shift away from so-called category killer formats for Dan Murphy’s and are unhappy with how the retailing division is running. That is a sentiment Aitken agrees with.
“The offering was so weird, there was a 6 back of Peroni or Asahi, some random looking seltzers and then the rest was groaning with a lot of expensive reds and champagne,” he wrote of his Martin Place store visit.
“There was so much variety of Champagne on offer in the fridges they must know something about lawyers I don’t.
“I can’t remember the last time I saw a Senior Counsel drinking a A$399 bottle of Dom Perignon he/she had paid for.”
Endeavour’s share price, he added, should be between $8 and $10. Aitken suggests the management is too arrogant, and needs to offload the Pinnacle Drinks winery business it has built up, most recently by acquiring Cape Mentelle in Western Australia from LVMH subsidiary Moet Hennessy.
That would make it the latest in a long line of winery assets on the market. Street Talk has previously reported that Pernod Ricard, the world’s second-largest wine and spirits producer, has mandated two investment banks to conduct a strategic review of its Australia and New Zealand business – which is expected to lead to a change of control before the end of the year.
ASX-listed Australian Vintage, the company behind the Tempus Two, McGuigan and Nepenthe wine brands, is also running a strategic review.
Endeavour was trading lower on Thursday morning at $4.93.