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Australia's Treasury Wine Estates snaps up big Marlborough winery

BUSINESSDESK: Australian-based Treasury Wine Estates is planning to expand Rapaura Vintners in Marlborough after buying out 50% partner Babich Wines.

Rapaura Vintners, which makes wines for shareholders Babich and Matua Valley Wines and some of Marlborough's well-known labels under contract, will be renamed Matua Marlborough.

It is one of Marlborough's largest wineries.

TWE, encompassing the wine assets previously owned by Australian brewer Fosters, is buying the 50% of Rapaura Vintners it did not own from Babich Wines, according to a statement to the ASX. It did not disclose a price.

Rapaura's winery will be expanded to increase crush capacity from 15,000 tonnes to 25,000 tonnes by fiscal 2013.

TWE bought the Matua wine company, which was based in West Auckland and was a pioneer in the New Zealand wine industry, in 2001.

Rapaura also has packaging and warehouse facilities. It moved to a new site in Jacksons Rd in the heart of the Rapaura district of Marlborugh in 2003.

The New Zealand wine industry has been under pressure from excess supply and a high New Zealand dollar. Small wineries have been closing or merging.

"This investment strengthens our foothold in Marlborough, one of New Zealand's premier wine regions and signals the confidence we have in our brands," TWE managing director Sam Glaetzer says.

The TWE portfolio includes Lindeman's, Wolf Blass, Penfolds, Rosemount and Wynns Coonawarra Estate.

The company has revenues of about $A1.8 billion and operates in 16 countries.

The shares fell 1% to A$4.94 on the ASX yesterday.