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The Sydney Morning Herald

IWI chases French alliance

Author: Eli Greenblat
Date: 25/11/2002
Words: 378
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Business
Page: 31
The $105 million International Wine Investment Fund (IWI) is poised to grab a significant stake in a fully integrated wine company based in France's Loire Valley.

IWI has held discussions with a major French wine group over the past three months, leading to the winery recently launching a corporate and organisational restructure to accommodate IWI's fresh capital injection.

Traditionally, IWI has taken a 10 to 40 per cent stake in overseas wine groups.

The name of the wine company is unknown but is believed to be within the Nantes region of the Loire Valley on the west coast of France.

IWI chief executive Christopher Day confirmed the company was interested in making an investment in the Loire Valley and said a final deal was expected to be brokered in the new year.

``We could work a lot quicker than that, but we've actually gone to these people in France and said that unless the deal is done the way we want it done we won't be investing, so they are now restructuring," Mr Day said.

He declined to name the wine company but said it was a well-recognised brand in Europe that sold between 1 and 2 million cases a year and had a strong market penetration in the US and Canada.

IWI, which is the biggest shareholder in BRL Hardy with a 12.5 per cent stake, is eagerly chasing new overseas investments and has accelerated its international exposure this year to $32.14 million from $1.3 million the year before. The Adelaide fund now has almost 15 per cent of its assets invested overseas.

Its recent strategic investments include $12.6 million in Hawesko, Germany's leading retailer and wholesaler of premium wines, $2.7 million in British wine distributor Vinceros and $11 million in Gabriel Meffre, a French wine producer based in the Cotes du Rhone and Languedoc regions.

The size of IWI's interest in the offshore wine groups ranges from a 6.5 per cent stake in Hawesko to a near 40 per cent stake in Gabriel Meffre.

IWI's diverse portfolio, which also includes shares in Evans & Tate, Foster's and Southcorp, generated $11.64 million in revenue last financial year, producing a profit after tax for the listed investment fund of $4.42 million.

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