Cheviot Bridge is to focus on turning round a slump in export sales after reporting plummeting first-half profits.

The Australian wine producer yesterday (15 March) reported net profit of just A$40,000 (US$29,414) in the six months to 31 December. This compared with a net profit of $199,000 a year earlier.

Cheviot Bridge, whose wine portfolio includes the brands Long Flat and Braided River, saw earnings hit by fierce competition in North America and retail consolidation in Australia. Exports slid by 41%, while the company's domestic profit margins fell by 9%.

"We will take action to improve our export performance," said Cheviot Bridge managing director Maurice Dean. "I recently travelled through the US and Canada to meet with our agents and I am completing a review of our export operations. We have already identified some new product initiatives that we expect will leverage our brands within these markets."

Dean said Cheviot Bridge was in better shape than many of its rivals because of its position as a virtual wine company. It outsources the production of wine rather than owning plant and equipment.

"We do not face the issues of excess inventory or investment in under-utilised assets that other wine companies do," he added.

"However, we're not immune from the intense competition and margin pressure that is inherent in an industry facing oversupply and retail consolidation."