Craft Brew Alliance (BREW) is a collection of craft beer brands formed with the merger of Redhook Ale and Widmer Brothers in 2008, but it is best known for its fast growing Kona Brewing brand of beer. Originally a Hawaiian craft beer, Kona is now positioned as a beach inspired mass marketed lifestyle beer. If you're unfamiliar with Kona, they recently did a big media buy during the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, here a link to one of their commercials espousing the island lifestyle. CBA is ~31% owned by brewing giant AB InBev ("ABI"), in August 2016 ABI entered into a distribution agreement with CBA that laid out a path for ABI to purchase the remaining ~69% they don't already own. The agreement has a graduated payout schedule based on the date of an announced acquisition, the first two dates have passed and the last deadline for ABI to make a "qualified offer" for CBA is 8/23/2019, the qualified offer has a minimum of $24.50 per share.
Craft Brew Alliance is an unfortunate name, it's now widely agreed the craft beer segment is over-saturated with thousands of breweries, it's difficult for the mid-sized independent brewers to survive as most craft drinkers have migrated to the ultra-local inside your own zip code breweries. It's much more fun to show up to a party with a growler of IPA from down the street than a 6 pack from a super-regional brand you can get at any Walgreens. The original version 1.0 craft brands like CBA's stale Redhook or Widmer brands are in free fall and pioneering brands like Boston Beer (SAM) have pivoted to so called "alcopop" and spiked seltzers. Similarly, Kona has morphed into a mass-marketed lifestyle brand, their two flagship beers (Blue Wave and Longboard) are relatively easy drinking and light. A small anecdote reflecting that shift, my old college bar now has "$3 Big Wave Thursdays" as the weekly special, it's no longer "craft brew" if 19 year olds are playing beer pong with it.
AB InBev is viewed as over-leveraged after the acquisition of SABMiller, they also cut the dividend in half last October sending their shares to multi-year lows as they deal with declining beer volumes, but since the dividend cut shares have recovered nicely this year. Acquiring CBA would be a relatively small check (~$325MM) for ABI to write and would fill a hole in their U.S. portfolio where they don't have the rights to the similarly positioned Corona brand. Additionally, if ABI passes on making a qualified offer, they would owe CBA a $20MM fee and potentially open themselves up to another brewer making an attempt to purchase CBA, how would ABI feel about a competitor (Constellation Brands?) getting a free ride on their distribution system for the next several years?
But the market clearly doesn't believe it will happen, today shares trade for $13.60, the minimum qualified offer price of $24.50 would represent an 80% premium. The downside is probably in the $8-9 range if there's no offer, so by triangulating the implied odds the market is telling you there's about a 4-1 or 3-1 chance of the deal being completed. Let's just assume that's right, an interesting way to speculate on the deal getting done is through August $20 call options which are trading for ~$0.20 per contract. If the deals consummates, it's likely to be all cash and at the minimum price, so we know the timing and we know the price, assuming a small spread, the calls would move up to ~$4.00 or so on a deal announcement, or a 20-1 payout structure. I'd love to be able to invest in 30 similar trades to spread out the dispersion, but even on its own its a compelling proposition and I have made it about a 1% cost basis position in the calls.
Disclosure: I own BREW August $20 calls