BRL Hardy is courting possible suitors in the US as it looks for acquisitions or joint ventures, says managing director Steve Millar. Millar told during the Wine Australia 2000 conference in Melbourne on Monday that he would like to do a deal and was disappointed at having not found a target yet.

Hardy's, which includes the Nottage Hill and Stamp's of Australia brands, has already bought Nobilo Wines this year but wants to follow rivals Mildara Blass and Rosemount into the lucrative US market.

But a tough talking Millar said a merger with a US wine maker was unlikely as there were very few candidates suitable.

"We are comfortable with our strategy of pushing organic growth, however I believe this industry is going global and we will see the emergence of a limited number of global wine companies," he said.

"We are growing in all the major markets and as a company we are in a strong position but if you are going to be a global company you have to be in the most profitable market and that is the US market for US wines.

"We are playing in the US by importing, we don't dominate in the US in the way we do elsewhere so we see that as an opportunity. But any deal we do will have to be earnings per share positive right from day one - we can't do a deal the way Mildara did."

Mildara Blass's A$2.6bn acquisition of Beringer in California has been one of the major talking points of Wine Australia as many see it signalling the emergence of the Australian wine companies as a global force.

But Mildara had the backing of beer giant Fosters in its deal and the other companies, including Hardy's, don't have that luxury or cash flow.

"We are never going to be worried by paying over price because we won't buy anyone at 16 or 17 times earnings. Yes, that makes it more difficult and a couple of things we have had looks at we have not done because of that. We are looking for opportunities to enhance value and that does make the task more complex," said Millar.

While Millar is eagerly pursuing US acquisition opportunities he is also pleased with the performance of his current stable of wine brands, in particular the eco-friendly Banrock Station that he sees appealing to the younger generation of wine consumers.

"Banrock Station has the potential to be the biggest selling wine brand in the world. It is fantastic value for money and it does a wonderful job at living in today's world by donating money to wet land projects and identifying the environment as an important issue."

BRL Hardy is also planning the launch of a number of new brands including a regional specific brand for Canberra in Australia and extending its range in Western Australia. It is also developing the idea of concept wines with its Wicked brand.