The Australian winemaker Evans & Tate has announced it has reached an agreement in principle with minority shareholders to purchase the balance of its UK distribution business Australian Wineries (UK) ltd.

E&T acquired a 51% stake in the UK-based sales and marketing company through its acquisition of Cranswick Premium Wines in March 2003.

Franklin Tate, CEO of E&T, said: "Evans & Tate has been keen to obtain 100% of Australian Wineries (UK) and we are please to have been able to reach agreement with our minority shareholders, Mr Julius Barret and Mr Mike Awin."

He added: "As part of the transaction, Julius and Mike will continue to manage the agency and private label business via a newly formed company with a supply agreement from Evans & Tate. This supply agreement will enable them to market a range of Buyers Own Brands and Private labels." The new company will retain the Australian Wineries name.

Barret and Awin will also continue to market E&T brands via the new company to regional wholesalers and the independent sector. Meanwhile E&T will continue to deal directly with large chains, direct shipment customers, dsitributors and European operations."

It is anticipated that the transaction will be completed by June 30th.

In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, Tate added that sales to the UK/Europe continue to be strong and the company had not been badly affected by exchange rate exposure hitting so many Australian wine groups.
"The majority of the exchange rate volatility has been between the US dollar to the UK pound, so, to date the group has not been materially affected by exchange rate volatility," he said.

Sales to the UK and Europe represent 27% of the E&T revenue, while 87% of total sales are undertaken in Australian dollars.