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Foster's rebuffs $2.1 billion bid for wine unit

  • PC: Las Ventanas Sonoma Resort is proposed to be built off of Highway 12 in Kenwood behind and above Chateau St. Jean, seen in the foreground.

    9/17/2001: B1-C: A developer has proposed building Las Ventanas Sonoma resort off Highway 12 in Kenwood behind and above Chateau St. Jean, seen in the foreground.

    srps

Foster's Group said Wednesday that it had rejected an unsolicited bid from an unidentified private equity firm offering from 2.3 billion to 2.7 billion Australian dollars for its wine business, which it said it planned to spin off from its beer operations.

The nonbinding cash bid, equivalent to $2.1 billion to $2.5 billion, "significantly undervalues Treasury Wine Estates and its future prospects," Foster's said, while maintaining that it was committed to a separate listing of the two beverage businesses. Foster's declined to reveal the bidder's identity.

"This puts the whole company in play. If you are one of the big brewers, you probably didn't want to be saddled with a wine business you didn't understand or want," Tom Elliott, managing director of hedge fund MM&E Capital, told Reuters.

The company's shares rose 27 cents, or 4.45 percent, to 6.34 Australian dollars on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Though best known for its beer, Foster's has a major stake in the wine industry. In Sonoma County, it owns Chateau St. Jean and its Napa Valley properties include Beringer Vineyards, St. Clement, Etude and Stag's Leap Winery. Other well-known brands include Australia's Lindemans, Penfolds and Rosemount and Italy's Castello di Gabbiano.


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