NZ: DB Group readies for international race for Corbans Wines

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Major US, European, South American, Australian and New Zealand wine companies are showing interest in bidding for Corbans Wines, New Zealand's second largest winery. Corbans has been put on the market - with an expected price tag of between $NZ150m-$NZ200m - by parent company and major NZ brewer, the DB Group, as the final step in a divestment of non-core assets. Several finance investor groups have also shown interest in the company. Major Australian wineries Southcorp, BRL Hardy and Foster's Brewing Group subsidiary Mildara Blass, have all said that they are 'interested in being interested'. Salomon Smith Barney is advising DB on the sale with information memorandums expected to be distributed at the end of July. The sale is expected to be finalised by the end of September.Corbans, which has 27% of the NZ wine market, has had a troubled recent history with financial results for the six months to March 31 being 'below expectations' according to DB managing director, Brian Blake. Sixty per cent of its 9m litres of production is bulk wine. A 15-year plan, which included $NZ59 million in capital expenditure on vineyard acquisitions and winery upgrades in the next five years, was announced last year. The DB Group is controlled by Singapore-based Asia Pacific Breweries (APB), which is jointly controlled by Heineken and Singaporean diversified company Fraser and Neave. APB launched earlier this year a takeover bid for 42% of DB shares it did not own, gaining acceptances for a further 17%. Chris Snow

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