Casino and gaming billionaire James Packer has increased his stake in the world's second largest wine producer, Treasury Wine Estates.
The Packer family’s investment fund, Ellerston Capital, has invested $123 million to raise its share in Treasury from 4.6 to 5%.
The move by Packer – son of the late Kerry Packer - pushed shares up 3% to $3.80 to hit a three-month high, leading to speculation in the Australian media that its wine industry’s fortunes are improving.
Packer’s move to increase its ownership stake in Treasury, which owns brands including Beringer and Penfolds, closely follows the publicly listed company’s half year results.
It announced a 1.1m case, or 6.2%, drop in sales. While volumes increased more than 20% in Asia, it was not enough to stave off a slump in the UK, which has been the main source of the downturn in sales.
Treasury’s chief executive David Dearie said: “It it weren’t for UK sales falling, sales would have been flat.”
UK sales have been hard hit by the company’s decision to abandon three for £10 promotions in favour of more profitable sales.
According to Dearie, duty and taxes on three bottles of Australian wine amounted to £7.41,“which clearly does not leave much room to make any sort of return,” he added.
The US also remains challenging, down 1.5% in the first half. However, this represents an improvement compared to the 11.2% fall it recorded last year.
Blush sales in the US “continue to have real challenges” with the focus now firmly on Moscato for Treasury. Red Moscato is “a very hot area right now” Dearie revealed, which will lead to the release of a number of Moscato-based wines in the second half.
Written by Rebecca Gibb