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Major merger for wine trade

Gilbey’s, the wine wing of multinational Diageo, has been sold to Tipperary based drinks distributor, Gleeson Group. The move was notified to the Competition Authority on 30 July, and, following examination by that body, the transaction is likely to be completed by the autumn.

Gilbey’s is believed to have been worth around e6m. Following re-financing some time ago, Gleeson Group is understood to have had up to €25m available for investments and acquisitions. The move will make Gleeson a major player in the Irish wine distribution market; prior to the takeover, Gleeson’s held around 2% of the market, while Gilbey’s had 13%. Over the past few years, Gleeson’s has put together a highly respected portfolio of premium wines and has not been afraid to offer products from lesser known regions such as Italy’s Basilicata. This new move will take the group into broader territory and it will now distribute a number of household names, including Faustina, Blossom Hill, Santa Rita and Barton and Guestier. The group will also handle Chateaux Loudenne, Teyssier, Magnol, Frank Phelan and Leoville Barton, as well as top Rioja estate, Marques de Murrieta.

The Gilbey name will be retained and its 30 or so employees will transfer to Gleeson. Whether the Gilbey portfolio will survive intact remains to be seen. Last year Gleeson sales fell by €20 to €230m, while profits slipped by around the same percentage. However, in the context of the present contraction in the global drinks trade, this has not been regarded as a significant setback and it is likely that 2011 will see a return to growth.

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