Foster’s says would consider wine unit offers

MELBOURNE (BestGrowthStock) – Australian brewer Foster’s (FGL.AX: ) said it has held no further talks with the private equity suitor that made a $2.5 billion offer for its wine business in September.

Chairman David Crawford repeated on Tuesday that the approach — reportedly by Cerberus Capital (CBS.UL: ) — was “totally inadequate,” but said the company would consider any further offers for its $3 billion wine business.

“We have said from the day we announced the proposal to consider a demerger that we were still prepared to consider all possibilities, and that includes consideration of any offers if they are made,” Crawford told the annual general meeting.

He told reporters afterwards there had been no further discussions about the wine business with the unnamed suitor or with any other private equity firm.

Foster’s global wine business, which is second in size to Constellation Brands (STZ.AX: ) and includes Beringer and Penfolds, is expected to attract interest from other U.S. private equity players.

Crawford said while the company would like to take advantage of the strong Australian dollar to pay down some of its $2 billion in U.S.-dollar denominated debt, such a move would incur significant break fees and Foster’s was considering other options.

He reaffirmed the split of the wine and beer businesses was on track for the first half of 2011 and to meet that timetable, a shareholder vote was expected in March or April.

Shares in Foster’s added 0.7 percent to A$6.17, helped by comments that the brewer expects to return to a more predictable dividend ratio and timing after a hefty writedown for wine forced a delay in the last dividend payment.

(Reporting by Victoria Thieberger; Editing by Ed Davies)

Foster’s says would consider wine unit offers