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China’s Bright Food buys Bordeaux negociant DIVA

A Chinese food company has bought a majority stake in major Bordeaux negociant DIVA.

DIVA is the first négociant to cede a majority stake to a Chinese company – in this case Shanghai Sugar Cigarette and Wine (SSCW), a subsidiary of state-owned Bright Food, which says it is China’s largest food products group.

The new partnership, due to be signed in Paris on Wednesday, means that SSCW will take 70% of the shares of DIVA Bordeaux.

Pierre Beuchet, founder and president, and managing director Jean-Pierre Rousseau, will keep a stake of around 30%. A representative of SSCW will become chairman of a new supervisory committee.

Rousseau told Decanter.com, ‘The job of being a négociant has become more and more capital intensive, and we needed investment to develop to the next level. We looked at various options for funding, but I believe a good part of the future of Bordeaux lies with China, and we have to be part of it.’

Rousseau will continue to run DIVA, a company founded in 1979 and with a turnover in 2011 of €33m, for at least the next five years.

He says its international client-base will remain unchanged – although access to the Chinese market will now increase. The company already has an office in China with 60 staff, which it expects to maintain.

A programme of wine education across China will be undertaken, involving wine festivals and winemaker dinners, and new product lines will be developed, most specifically for mid-range wines.

‘Our new partner offers us not only funding, but we are also acquiring a large, important customer who can really develop with us new Bordeaux brands and projects. We expect to build a bigger and stronger company with them,’ Rousseau said.

SSCW and its parent company have a strong distribution network across China, with hundreds of specialist stores and 60,000 outlets at supermarkets and hypermarkets. It does not currently own any Bordeaux chateaux, although Rousseau confirmed that there may be an interest in doing so.

Other companies in the DIVA network are not affected by the new deal.

Through one of its listed subsidiaries, Shanghai Jinfeng Wine, SSCW is also the leading yellow rice wine producer in China with annual production of approximately 100,000 tonnes of Shikumen and He brand rice wine.

Bright Food has been attempting to acquire major world food brands for some time. Last year it failed in its bids for French yogurt maker Yoplait and the American health supplement group GNC. In May this year it successfully acquired 80-year-old breakfast cereal Weetabix in a deal worth over €1bn.

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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