Some of the drinks industry's biggest names are thought to be eyeing Australian group Foster's, just-drinks understands.

Speculation grew today (26 September) that Foster's, which today announced Ian Johnston as its new CEO, could be broken up, following a strategic review of its troubled wine business.   

One industry source told just-drinks today that a de-merger of Foster's' beer and wine divisions looked likely. "They pretty much hoisted the 'for sale' flag over the business by announcing a strategic review [of the wine business]."

The source said that there would be "a large number of people in the industry" interested in the Foster's beer division.

Heineken and SABMiller have been touted as potential suitors. SAB declined to comment to just-drinks today, while a Heineken spokesperson was unavailable.

Fresh rumours of a sale have surfaced after the Bloomberg newswire reported last night that investment group Deutsche Bank had purchased shares in Foster's, reportedly on the behalf of a client. 

Foster's net profit after one-off charges plunged 88% to A$111.7m (US$92.4m) for the 12 months to the end of June, following a $602m write-down on the group's global wine business. Chairman David Crawford has been leading a review of the division since June.

Just-drinks understands from a separate industry source that Foster's has already made an initial approach to at least one major drinks company about the potential sale of its wine business. Many in the market remain cautious about taking on the struggling division, however.

Foster's expanded its wine business in 2005 with the acquisition of Australian wine group Southcorp for A$3.2bn.