Following its statement last week that it was set to report a A$23m loss, Cranswick Premium Wines Ltd duly posted a net loss for the 2002 fiscal year of A$23.4m, against a net profit of A$3.02m for the previous year. However, the company said that it had begun the 2002/2003 fiscal year with strong sales.

"Revenue to the end of August 2002 exceeded budget by A$1.6m," the company said. "With a number of key operational issues resolved and a solid financial structure in place, the board considers the company is well placed to significantly improve its performance in the current year."

Sales revenues the last fiscal year fell by 10% from A$60.4m to A$54.6m which the company attributed to its domestic distributor, Hill International, being placed in liquidation and the sale of Haselgrove Premium Wines.

Last week, Cranswick, which is set to merge with Evans & Tate, adjusted its accounts and announced that it would be reporting a total loss for the year to June 2002 of about $23m. Some obvservers believed that this might put the merger in doubt or at least result in a revision of the deal.

At the same time as pubishing its results, Cranswick said its board and the board of Evans & Tate Ltd were still conducting due diligence on the merger and would publish the outcome shortly.

However, Cranswick's CEO, Graham Cranswick-Smith, said he remained confident that the merger would go ahead. "The due diligence process is progressing very well," Cranswick-Smith said. "There are no particular sticking points, it's just a complicated process."

But Cranswick-Smith declined to say if the merger terms will be altered as a result of the decline in the share price of both companies since the merger was first announced in June. Shares in Cranswick have fallen by 30%, while Evans & Tate shares have seen a decline of around 27%.