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Kweichow Moutai: Largest distiller in the world that nobody’s heard of

Kweichow Moutai Co., Ltd. is the maker of China’s best-known distilled spirit, which is often used to seal business and political deals. It has an unusual corporate structure, being partially state-owned (by the Guizhou Provincial People’s Government) and partially publicly-listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. One of Moutai’s biggest advantages is its ability to keep the price of its product high. The company claims to have limited capacity since it can only produce its drinks in one place – Maotai town.

Despite being the world largest distiller and producing one of China’s most prestigious brands, Kweichow Moutai was not well known outside China until recently, as it sells its products primarily in its home market. In 2020, the world heard about it, as its value has risen dramatically. While other alcohol brands have seen their values fall during the Covid-19 pandemic, shares in Kweichow Moutai surged around 70% on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. It has surpassed the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest commercial bank by assets, to become the country’s most valuable public company. Valued at CNY2.7 trillion ($391.3bn), Kweichow Moutai is worth more than Toyota, Nike and Disney.

At the moment, the company’s dominance is nowhere near diminishing. The heritage that the brand has is impossible to replicate and it looks able to generate sustainable profits, as China’s consumer market continues to grow and has more and more purchasing power. However, issues such as corruption scandals, changing demographics and lack of diversification, if not addressed may impact its growth in the future.