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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March, 2005, 17:34 GMT
Private equity firm buys Unwins
Wine bottles
The chain's new owners have a stake in a wine producer
UK off-licence chain Unwins has been bought by a private equity firm.

The 168-year-old Dartford, Kent-based company, was put up for sale in 2004 after three years of losses.

The value of the deal with London-based DM Private Equity, which holds a 5% stake in the Western Australian wine producer Palandri, was not disclosed.

Unwins has 387 stores in the south of England and employs 2,500 people. It reported turnover of 179m ($343m) in the year to February 2004.

But this was lower than its 197m turnover the year before.

Off licences have come under pressure in recent years as consumers are increasingly turning to the major supermarket chains for alcohol purchases.

Brand strengthening

DM Private Equity secured Unwins despite interest from a number of potential bidders, reported to include Castel, the French owner of the Oddbins chain.

The sale required support from Unwins' 84 shareholders, all descendants of Michael Wetz - whose wine and spirit importing business, Phillips Newman, acquired Unwins in 1921.

"Substantial branch closures", are not expected, DM Private Equity said.

"We look forward to building on the hard work of the Unwins staff, to strengthening the brand name, and to growing what is already an extremely successful retailing operation," said Phillip Cook, chairman of DM Private Equity.


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