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NEW ZEALAND: Corbans decision expected by end of month

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The buyer of Corbans, New Zealand's second biggest wine company, is expected to be announced by the end of September.Final bids are due to be lodged this week with Corbans' parent, the DB Group, a subsidiary of Singapore-based Asia Pacific Breweries, which is part owned by Heineken.NZ's largest wine producer, the Montana Group, is tipped as the front runner following yesterday's ruling by the country's Commerce Commission that its acquisition of Corbans would not result in market dominance.Valued at more than $NZ100m, Corbans was reported by DB to have encountered difficult trading conditions last year, especially because of UK distribution problems, and is believed to have suffered further this year. A price of less than $NZ100m is now being predicted in financial circles with some speculation that it could be less than $NZ90m.Strong international interest, from wine companies and investors, was shown when Corbans was placed on the market in May.Foster's Brewing Group (Mildara Blass), Southcorp, Orlando and BRL Hardy, which has since acquired 100% ownership of NZ's third largest producer, Nobilos, were all tipped as strong bidders.But BRL Hardy is now believed to be a non-bidder, while Foster's acquisition of Beringer last week is likely to have reduced its interest. Southcorp is thought to be concentrating on a US venture after reportedly missing out on Beringer.


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