AUSTRALIA: Comment: Lion's Banksia move kick-starts further Oz speculation
Lion Nathan's friendly take-over offer for the Australian listed winery Banksia may be of greater significance than just the brewing giant's determination to have an Australasian presence.
Second line or medium-size listed wineries have become increasingly attractive targets because of their price earnings ratios, share registers and current success rates with increasingly internationally recognised brands.
Banksia, though small, with its St Hallett and Tatachilla labels, was an obvious target. But also in the sights of any buyer must be Peter Lehmann Wines, based in the South Australian Barossa region, whose A$6.2m (US$3.01) latest profit figures were well ahead of expectations.
The Lehmann family owns 21% of the shares and intends to retain ownership but the company could become a target, willing or otherwise. Others in the medium size Australian group are Brian McGuigan Wines, Evans & Tate and Petaluma, though the latter's shares are tightly held by board members. Cranswick Premium Wines and Hotham Wines, could also be of interest but have not performed as strongly as their competitors.
Beyond that, the Lion Nathan-Banksia announcement has added fuel to the already circulating rumours that, among Australia's big four producers, BRL Hardy could be a take-over candidate.
It has recorded spectacular, and continuing, growth over the past decade but its surging share price has recently softened and the weak Australian dollar provides another cheap entry factor into an industry with strong fundamentals.
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