For the first time since it became a public company in 1997, Cranswick Estate reported a fall in earnings and admitted it failed to meet its budget.

The Australian wine company reported sales for the six months to 31 December 2000 of $A27.3m ($13.79m) compared to $A27.7m ($14m) for the same period in 1999. Earnings before depreciation interest and tax were down to $A5.3m ($2.68m) from $A6.7m ($3.39m).

Ian Mackley, the company's chairman said: "For the first time since we became a publicly listed company way back in 1997 we have failed to meet our budget and also failed to show our usual improvement on the same period in the previous year."

He continued: "The first quarter was roughly on budget, but the second quarter, in common with many other companies, was adversely affected by the Olympics as far as domestic sales went and exports were affected by some strong price competition and also that a major customer altered his trading pattern of ordering and a $A2.5m ($1.26m) order was delayed from the first to this second half of the year."

Mackley also confirmed that the Haselgrove winery had been put up for sale and that several interested parties had already approached the company. The sale, Mackley said, would be at a small premium to book value and would free up capital and help to reduce interest.

Mackley went on to say that the company expected improved results following the strengthening of the management team and the implementation of a new strategy in the US, which includes the establishment of a national broker network.

Furthermore to secure control of its future in the UK and Europe, Cranswick has acquired a third of its UK distributor and has the option to increase the stake to 51% in March 2002 as well as having first right of refusal over the remaining shares.