AUSTRALIA: Southcorp hits back at sale rumours

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John Ballard, the recently appointed chief executive of Southcorp, has hit back at claims the embattled winemaker will have to sell all or part of its business.

Talking on ABC's Business Breakfast radio programme he said the wine brands were "absolutely not" for sale.

Following a troubled year, which has seen the dismissal of previous CEO Keith Lambert, speculation has been growing that Southcorp will face a takeover bid by a rival drinks company for all or part of its business. The Australian wine and beer producer, Foster’s, is most hotly tipped to fill that role.

But Ballard when asked if Southcorp was considering selling some or all of its brands said, "absolutely not".

"This company has, without question, probably close to the world's best collection of wine assets if you look at the vineyards, you look at the wineries and you look at the winemaking skills," he said.

"All of those things have been brilliantly run - the only problems have been in the commercial area and that is, of course, where my background lies," he said. "Commercial problems are eminently fixable - they just take time and they cost money."

Ballard insisted that the company's problems have not done any "serious damage" to its brands or relationships with key customers and growers.

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