News Column

Corporate titans face off in battle for Aussie wines

August 12, 2014

MICHAEL BOW



TWO Wall Street private equity giants are going head to head in a multi-billion battle to take control of the world's biggest listed winemaker Treasury Wine Estates.


The Australian listed vintner behind Wolf Blast and Penfolds said yesterday an unnamed private equity house had matched a $3.1bn joint bid for the company by New York listed firm Kolhberg, Kravis & Roberts (KKR) and Rhone Capital.


The unnamed suitor is believed to be TPG Capital, the US private equity firm founded by David Bonderman which owns UK firms like Victoria Plumb, the online bathroom retailer, and Saxo Bank.


KKR - led by cousins Henry Kravis and George Roberts - and Rhone had originally lodged a $5.20 a share offer for the winemaker last week.


Treasury Wine yesterday said it will now pursue separate discussions with the rival bidder.


"The board of TWE has concluded that it is in the interests of its shareholders to engage further with this private equity investor," it said in a statement.


TPG's dealmakers will now be given access to Treasury Wine's books to conduct due diligence.


Shares in the Australian listed company closed up 3.9 per cent yesterday in anticipation of a bidding war between the two sides.


TPG has picked an opportune time to swoop for Treasury Wine after KKR was forced to sweeten its original $4.70 bid, which was lodged in April.


The bid was rebuffed but KKR hiked its offer by 10.6 per cent to $5.20.


Treasury Wine had been struggling over the past 12 months and a buyout represents an opportunity to give the company more strategic momentum.


In November it announced a restructuring following a difficult period sparked by a write down in its US business. Last summer it was even forced to destroy old wine after estimating US demand.


The showdown between KKR and TPG brings together two of the industry's best known figures, Kravis and Bonderman.


Both men, who are now in their seventies, are billionaires and have pursued some of the biggest private equity buyouts in history.


They joined forces for the biggest private equity deal in history after buying TXU Energy, later rebranded as Energy Future, alongside Goldman Sachs. The firm later filed for bankruptcy.


For more stories on investments and markets, please see HispanicBusiness' Finance Channel



Source: City A.M. (UK)


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