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AUSTRALIA: Vincorp sale in the air

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Vincorp, the small, publicly-listed Australian winery, is negotiating a sale deal with a private winery, believed to be the Hunter Valley-based Hope Estate. Hope Estate principal, Michael Hope, has denied involvement in the negotiations, but talks are believed to be well advanced. At least two other wineries, Hanging Rock, situated near Vincorp's' headquarters at Kyneton, 80km north of Melbourne, and West Australia's Palandri Wines, have also expressed interest in Vincorp. Vincorp has been seeking a buyer for more than a year following continuing trading troubles. It lost about $A3m in 1998-1999 and a further $A1m in 1999-2000. It has alleged it had to withdraw 100,000 bottles of its Trio Station range of wines from the market in 1999 because of alleged difficulties with synthetic closures and is seeking compensation of $A910,020 from the manufacturers. It is due to settle next week the $1.045m sale of a vineyard in Western Australia - to Hope Estate. Vincorp sources were today tight-lipped about sale negotiations with adviser, Malcolm McComas, of Grant Samuel, saying only that discussions were taking place with a number of interested parties and that he believed the outcome would result in the continued management and further development of the company. Vincorp's major assets include the premium Virgin Hills label for which it has an agreement with the UK's Virgin Airlines, soon to begin Australian domestic services, giving it extensive global rights well beyond its present production capacity.Vincorp also has a winery and 56ha of vineyards. More than 10m of its shares have been traded in the past week with the price jumping from A9.4c at yesterday's close of trading to A13c at today's close, but still well below its 52-week high of 30c.Chris Snow


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