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A Bain-led consortium has taken over Australia’s second-largest wine producer Accolade Wines after it struggled to adapt to Chinese tariffs and a consumer shift away from lower-priced brands.
The company behind brands such as Hardys Wines and Banrock Station was bought by Carlyle in 2018 for A$1bn (US$660mn) at a time when private equity bidders were targeting Australian wine companies.
But Accolade has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic’s damaging impact on the hospitality sector, the introduction of punitive Chinese tariffs on Australian wine in 2020 and a switch by many consumers to more expensive wines.
“Accolade Wines has a long, proud Australian history as a world class wine producer and we hope it will remain so for many decades to come. We hope this restructure will build a more secure long-term future of the business,” said a spokesperson for the consortium.
“Like all Australian winemakers, we have been hit by a number of challenging macroeconomic and industry headwinds in recent years,” said Robert Foye, Accolade Wines chief executive. “Our ability to respond to these challenges and grow has been hampered by an unsustainable balance sheet.”
Accolade, which has a near-A$600mn loan due in 2025 according to the company, has been struggling to service its debts. The new owners, led by Bain’s special situations unit, have been buying up Accolade’s debt at a heavy discount and hope to complete the company’s recapitalisation by the middle of the year. The company has commenced talks with grape suppliers in South Australia to renegotiate supply contracts.
Called Australian Wine Holdco, the consortium also includes asset managers Intermediate Capital Group, Capital Four, Sona Asset Management and Samuel Terry Asset Management.
Accolade has already been selling smaller brands, including its Tasmanian vineyard Bay of Fires, to lower its debt. Analysts said the restructured company was likely to be a consolidation target for a large trade buyer or a private equity company.
Australian winemakers are preparing for a reopening of the Chinese market, once the sector’s growth driver, after a review of the 2020 tariffs was kicked off late last year.
The review followed a state visit by Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to China in November and a resumption of trading for other products that had been halted after the then-Australian leader Scott Morrison called for an inquiry into the origins of Covid-19.
Australian wine companies including Treasury Wine Estates and Accolade have turned to other markets in south-east Asia and North America to offset the loss of Chinese sales. Accolade struck a deal with basketball player James Harden to launch a signature wine collection to drive US sales last year.
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