The privately-owned Swiss company, Hess Group AG, has launched a A$133m off-market takeover bid for the Australian wine company, Peter Lehmann Wines (PLW). It was reported that the company's founder, Peter Lehmann, has agreed to sell a 5.4% stake to the Swiss company.

The Australian company's independent directors are also supporting the bid but their support is contingent on a higher offer not emerging. The offer is also conditional on Hess gaining acceptances for 35% of the shares and receiving approval from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board.

"We are pleased to have received an offer from the Hess Group which is capable of being put to all shareholders to give them an opportunity to sell, or to continue as investors in the company," said PLW's chairman, Richard England.

The offer values PLW at A$3.50 per share against the closing price on Friday of A$3.44.

The directors stated that PLW had been approached by other potential bidders in the past but none of these had resulted in an offer. Attention is now likely to be focused on Allied Domecq, the UK-based international wine and spirits group which controls 14.5% of PLW and which has been itself suggested as a possible bidder for the company.