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Constellation selling Australian, British wine unit

  • FILE - In this July 1, 2008 file photo, bottles of Clos Du Bois, Ravens Wood and Alice White, wines in the Constellation Brands, are seen at Empire Wine and Liquor Outlet in Colonie, N.Y. Constellation Brands Inc. said Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010, it is selling an 80 percent stake in 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 company draws more than 90 percent of its revenue from mostly moderately priced wines. Among its 100-plus brands are Clos du Bois, Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi, Blackstone and Ravenswood.(AP Photo/Mike Groll, file)

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.


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