Peter Lehmann, the founder of the Australian wine company, Peter Lehmann Wines (PLW), has laid at least some of the blame for the company's current downturn on the unsettling presence of international drinks group, Allied Domecq, as a significant shareholder.

"It has been unsettling to our overseas distributors," Lehmann said, referring to Allied's 14.5% stake in the wine group which last week posted a 22% drop in net profit for 2002-03 to A$5.42m.

Lehmann's views were echoed by Robert Hill-Smith, managing director of Samuel Smith & Son, PLW's fifth largest shareholder. "I think it's actually had a debilitating effect on brand performance," Hill-Smith said.

Any speculation that Allied Domecq's participation in PLW has caused is likely to continue for a while longer following the news that the Swiss group, Hess, has made a A$3.50-per-share takeover bid for the group, valuing PLW at A$133m. Allied Domecq is now thought to be considering whether to table a counter-bid.

Peter Lehmann sold a 5.4% participation in PLW to Hess but still retains a 10.1% stake in the company.