Banks still wary about wine industry lending: McWilliams boss

Banks still wary about wine industry lending: McWilliams boss
Banks still wary about wine industry lending: McWilliams boss

The family members of Australia's sixth largest wine company, McWilliams Wines, are being asked to provide $15 million in a rights issue to bolster the company's weak balance sheet.

McWilliams chief executive Jeff McWilliam said raising equity was a practical route because banks were still wary of the wine industry.

"I think their confidence in the wine industry is not there yet," he told the Australian Financial Review.

"We've had to become less reliant on debt funding".

Its recently lodged June 1 prospectus for a 5-for-7 non-renounceable entitlement offer at 42¢ per share shows that McWilliams generated revenue of $100.7 million in 2016-17 but made a loss of $22.6 million before tax.

McWilliam’s is one of the pioneering wine entities within Australia which has been perfecting the winemaking craft since 1877, when founder Samuel McWilliam first planted vines on the banks of the Murray River in New South Wales.

With over 140 years of history, six consecutive generations of the McWilliam family have strived to be at the forefront of Australian wine innovation.

The Mount Pleasant winery was named Winery of the Year in the James Halliday Wine Companion 2017, and its 2011 Maurice O’Shea Shiraz was named Shiraz of the Year in the 2015 edition.

McWilliam’s is also the exclusive Australian distributor for Champagne Taittinger, Henkell, and Mionetto prosecco.

The company continues to operate Hanwood Estate, as well as produce premium wines under the McWilliam’s and Mount Pleasant brands.

McWilliam’s also holds a 30% shareholding in MRWP, which is Margaret River’s largest contract processing facility and now controls Evans & Tate.

At the date of this Prospectus, McWilliam’s is 100% family-owned.

At the earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) level, the loss was $14.3 million. Revenue in 2015-16 was $107.9 million, with an EBITDA loss of $167,000.

Revenue for the first half of 2017-18 was $48.8 million, while EBITDA was $5.63 million.

Jeff McWilliam will shortly step down from the CEO role handing over to the former Parmalat executive David Pitt.
The company had shifted its bottling line and packaging operations out of Sydney to the Riverina area. 

The company was also working closely with corporate advisers Pendulum on a cost-cutting program to strip out $10 million of costs.

The prospectus also outlines that $1.675 million of the proceeds will go towards the repayment of a loan to E&J Gallo, the privately-owned United States wine giant, which held a small stake in McWilliams until late 2014.

Mr McWilliam said the company had been trying to lift itself out of the lower price point brackets and be less reliant on lower-priced commercial wine. "We've been trying to move away from sub-10 dollars to between 10 to 15 dollars," he said.

McWilliams Wines had been selling some of its products into China for 20 years.

Its exports to mainland China and Hong Kong represent about eight per cent of the company's total annual sales of $100 million.

Rural Mount Pleasant

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