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Allied’s spending spree fuels acquisition rumours

There is speculation once again that drinks giant Allied Domecq is poised to bid for a big name wine company.

The UK-based group yesterday doubled its stake in South Australian producer Peter Lehmann, spending more than AU$8 million (€4.8m) to take its share up to 10.6% of the Barossa-based winemaker’s shares.

Allied bought over two million shares, renewing speculation that the group is on the brink of a full-scale bid for Lehmann. Rumours of Allied’s strong interest in the producer began when it upped its stake to 5.4% in February.

Doug Lehmann, chief executive of the company, said there had been no recent talks with Allied, and declined to make any further comment.

Allied spokeswoman Jane Mussared told decanter.com, ‘A chunk of shares became available, at a good price, and we thought, “why not?”’

Mussared said the company was ‘in consolidation’ now, with David Scotland, president of the wine division, ‘keen to get the best out of individual businesses in the portfolio’ with a global support network, financial support, career progression for winemakers and so on.

She added, ‘We will keep adding to the portfolio on the basis of premium brands which have strong potential.’

Allied has shown an active interest in southern hemisphere wine businesses over the past year, pipping brewer Lion Nathan to the post with the purchase of New Zealand winemaker Montana, and more recently blocking Lion’s attempt for a full takeover of Australia’s Banksia Wines.

Some analysts believe that rather than intending to

takeover the producer, Allied are looking to secure a distribution deal with Lehmann, The Australian newspaper reports. The journal adds that it would be an unusual strategy to bid for a company in this way, instead of doing a direct deal behind closed doors.

Written by Tom Chippendale in Australia30 May 2002

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