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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 09:29 GMT
US pops cork on Hardy wine deal
Hardys Wines logo
Australia is a leading global wine exporter
US drinks group Constellation Brands will take over Australia's third largest vintner to create the world's largest wine maker.

The A$1.9bn (716.5m; $1.1bn) deal was approved by shareholders of the winemaker BRL Hardy, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of it at a special meeting.

Once combined with BRL, Constellation will take the top spot from E&J Gallo Winery of the US, with sales of $1.7bn.

Constellation plans to expand further.

"Everybody knows that Constellation desires to continue its stellar growth....and we'd anticipate doubling the size of the company over the next five years," said Constellation chairman and chief executive Richard Sandstold.

Investors cheer

The deal gives Constellation - which sells wine, beer and spirits - a major share of Australia's booming wine export industry and also greater access to the British market.

Constellation paid A$10.50 a share for BRL, which closed on Thursday at A$10.43 after rising by almost 50% this year on takeover talk.

Constellation last traded 0.7% higher at $23.35 on New York on Wednesday.

The deal is expected to be closed in April after approval for the takeover is received from Australian authorities.

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