Bid to save Bullers: Rock gig doubt

THE family behind Rutherglen-based Buller Wines is looking for investors or buyers for its vineyard and wine business, after it went into voluntary administration last week.

The business will keep operating under administration until a second creditors’ meeting is held in six months.

But the winery’s annual Rock in the Vines concert, due to be held on March 31, is under review.

Bullers is known for fortified wines and has been producing since 1921.

However, like many Australian businesses it is struggling to maintain export levels because the strong dollar pushes up the retail price in key markets such as Europe and the US and a long-term over-supply of grapes and wine in Australia and overseas has created an excessively competitive environment.

The administrators, Deloittes, will use a ‘‘two-pronged attack’’.

‘‘We are going to look at trying to secure a sale of the business in totality. That process will take time,’’ administrator Sal Algeri said.

‘‘Another option is trying to sell some of the inventory. That will generate a substantial income that will not require the business to be sold.’’

The Buller family company first contacted Deloittes in late October to discuss the vineyard’s financial position and future cash flows.

A creditors’ meeting yesterday in Melbourne was told Buller Wines was profitable and assets exceed liabilities but was not making enough money to cover overheads, reinvest in the business or fund expansion.

There is about $9 million worth of inventory, including wine, barrels and raw materials, and two properties — at Rutherglen and Beverford, just north of Swan Hill — estimated to be worth more than $5 million secured to the ANZ bank, which is owed $4 million.

Chairman of Wine Victoria Stephen Strachan said the wine glut had been going for five to 10 years.

Many Australian wineries were caught between a retreat from Europe and the US and future expansion into Asia, particularly China.

‘‘It is sad to see long-standing family companies go through difficulties but at the same time this is an industry that is fluid and these changes will set us up for the future,’’ Mr Strachan said.