Diageo Capital Structure

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1.What do you think about the capital structure policies Diageo has pursued in the past. Do they make sense? How does it compare to Diageo’s competitors’ policies? Which competitors would make for the best comparison? (40%)

Diageo was formed from the merger of Grand Metropolitan plc and Guinness plc. Before the merge, both companies used little debt (based on the book D/E ratio and net debt to total capital in the table below) to finance themselves which helped them gain and maintain high credit rating (A and AA respectively). After the merge, Diageo wanted to take the same path by maintaining the interest coverage between 5 and 8 (through actions such as new debt issuance, share repurchase programs shown in figure 1) and having EBITDA/Total Debt between 30 and 35 % to avoid potential downgrade. Its market gearing is 25%. Furthermore, its debt's pay-back period (Debt/EBITDA) shows its ability to pay off its incurred debt in a relatively short period of time. Coupled with the high multiple of cash available for interest payments over the years (EBITDA/Interest expense), the probability of a financial distress is low. We know market gearing is equal to debt over enterprise value. Using data from exhibit 4, we find debt level equal to $6.7 billion. Diageo can take on more debt if needed and benefit from the advantages of a high credit rating. This conservative financial policy allows Diageo to get a rating of A+ with the possibility to raise debt readily with lower promise yields and access short-term commercial paper borrowings at attractive rates.

Diageo has 4 business segments: spirits and wine business, Guinness (beer), packaged food products (Pillsbury) and fast food (Burger King). We will start comparing by segment’s averages and aggregate the results. By looking at exhibit 4 and taking the average of the firms in composite: * Diageo’s interest coverage (5.0) is lower than all segments’ average industry figure. Allied Domecq, Coca Cola,...
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