ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Constellation Brands Inc. said Thursday it is selling 80 percent of its Australian and British wine business to an Australian private equity firm for about $230 million, losing its distinction as the world's biggest wine company.
The seller of Robert Mondavi wine, Svedka vodka and Corona beer will retain a 20 percent stake, and the deal with Sydney-based Champ Private Equity is expected to be completed by the end of January.
Based in Victor, N.Y., Constellation Brands bought Australian vintner BRL Hardy Ltd. for $1.1 billion in a 2003 deal that made it the world's largest wine business. It jumped further ahead of longtime wine leader E.& J. Gallo Winery of Modesto, Calif., when it bought Robert Mondavi Corp. for $1.3 billion.
Offloading its Australian-British unit will drop the company to No. 2 behind Gallo in both volume and sales of wine. But it will remain the biggest seller by volume of premium-category wines priced between $5 and $15 a bottle, spokeswoman Angie Blackwell said.
Constellation Brands' shares rose 33 cents, or 1.5 percent, to close at $22.31 Thursday after touching a 52-week high of $22.43 earlier in the session. The stock has climbed 38 percent this year.