Foster's has extended a review to decide the future of its troubled Australian wine business. 

Foster's chairman David Crawford has said that the review, which was due to be complete by the end of the year, will now not be published until February, at the time of the firm's first half results.

Crawford made the announcement at Foster's AGM today (29 October).

Many analysts expect Foster's to attempt to sell the wine business, while others have suggested Foster's itself may be a takeover target. just-drinks understands that Foster's has already approached a number of industry players in an attempt to gauge interest in its wine arm.

One analyst told just-drinks earlier this month that the global financial crisis might delay a sale. "Disposing of wine assets in the current climate is not very easy," he said.

A poor performance from Foster's wine division led to a US$730m write-down charge for the 12 months ended 30 June, causing an 88% plunge in the firm's full-year profit.

Foster's said today that its performance in the first quarter has been in-line with expectations. It was particularly pleased with the performance of its beer business in Australia, which has grown both volume and value, according to newly appointed chief executive  Ian Johnston.

Wine shipments to the Americas were ahead of the first quarter last year, Johnston said, adding that the firm has noticed a trend from the on-trade to the off-trade.

He added: "This tends to move purchasing to lower price wines and away from the luxury portfolio. Our short term plans are being adjusted to recognise this dynamic."    

Johnston said that the firm remained cautious about wine sales to Europe in the "medium term".