Employee share scheme paves way for Wayward IPO

Sydney’s Wayward Brewing Co. has launched a new ownership model which will give employees shares in the business with a view to an eventual IPO.

Wayward’s Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP) means that 4 per cent of the business has been offered to employees as share options, with additional share options available each year dependent on company performance.

“It’s about giving everybody a chance to share in the success,” explained founder Peter Philip.

“We have always felt [and] we’ve always behaved like we’re an employee-owned organisation. And I think everybody’s had that mindset of contributing for the good of the company, but we just want to ensure that everybody can share in the success.”

Other breweries globally have invested in employee ownership schemes, including New Belgium Brewing, which subsequently became the target of a high-profile buyout from Kirin-owned Lion.

In Australia, Stone & Wood notably invested in an employee share scheme before also being acquired by Lion, and Bridge Road Brewers is one of the most recent breweries to have invested in a similar scheme.

But Philip highlighted the potential issues that can arise from an employee share scheme if the business is not prepared to sell.

“So the way we’ve done it is as an option scheme,” he told Brews News. “Essentially, the complication with any share ownership scheme is that private company shares are illiquid, so there’s really not a market for anybody to sell.

“So the way we’ve done it is to do it as an options scheme, which means that effectively, they’re getting their options at no cost to them and it means that they don’t have a taxation problem, but they’re getting the same benefits. They basically get the same benefits on any sort of eventual liquidity.”

Wayward, he suggested, would not be looking at a buyout situation, but instead was gearing up for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) which would see the business become publicly listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

The ASX currently only features Mighty Craft, Broo Ltd and Good Drinks Australia, owner of Gage Roads Brewing Co. as representatives from the brewing industry.

“Our intention is that we would like to move to an IPO in the next two to three years,” said Philip.

“So basically, at that time, everybody will receive shares in a public company. [Then they can] get all the benefits of being just an ordinary shareholder in an ASX-listed company.”

Philip explained that planning had not yet fully started on Wayward’s IPO.

“We’ve made it pretty clear that it’s a future thing that we haven’t started thinking about, but it’s our intention,” he said.

“We’ve got some big growth plans over the next couple of years – we have our sights set on being a top-10 Australian brewery.

“And we’ve got some good shareholders behind us that are willing to put up some money to help make that happen. So watch this space – there’s going to be some exciting things happening.”

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