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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Allied bids for Aussie wine maker
Australian vineyard
Demand for Australian wines remains strong in Britain and the US
Drinks giant Allied Domecq has joined the race for control of Australian wine maker Peter Lehmann after tabling a bid worth up to 61.8m ($101.7m; A$149.7m).

The UK firm said its offer represented a 14% premium on a bid already put forward by Swiss-owned Hess.

Allied, best known for making Beefeater Gin and Tia Maria, indicated earlier this month that it was interested in bidding for Peter Lehmann.

The wine maker's labels include Ambassador, Barossa and Clancy's.

Wine lovers

Allied chief executive Philip Bowman said consumer demand for Australian wines was continuing to grow, especially in the US, Britain, Scandinavia and at duty-free outlets.

"We are great admirers of the Peter Lehmann wines, which are inextricably liked with the Barossa, one of Australia's finest wine growing regions," Mr Bowman said.

Allied pledged to maintain the identity of the Australian firm, but said it believed its distribution network would provide Peter Lehmann with access to more markets.

Shareholder decision

Despite talks involving Allied and Peter Lehmann's independent directors, the Australian company's recommendation of the Hess bid remains in place.

"The future of Peter Lehmann Wines has now been made an issue that only its shareholders can decide," Mr Bowman said.

Allied's bid is worth an initial 59.5m, although this could rise to 61.8m if certain conditions are met, the company said.

If successful, the move would give Allied control of its first wine business in Australia.

The drinks group established a dedicated wines division in January 2002, with brands including Montana, Atlas Peak and Mumm and Perrier Jouet champagne.

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