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Lion wants all of Montana

By Phil Boeyen, ShareChat Business News Editor

Tuesday 21st November 2000

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Lion Nathan (NZSE: LNN) has applied for Commerce Commission approval to buy all of winemaker Montana (NZSE: MON).

The listed brewer currently holds 28.2% of Montana, having lifted its stake in recent months.

The Commerce Commission says it has received an application from Lion Nathan for clearance to acquire all the shares in Montana Group that it does not currently own.

It says the application had originally been confidential, but confidentiality has now been lifted and a decision on the application is due this Friday.

Under the Commerce Act the Commission has ten working days in which to make a decision on an application, which means Lion made its application at the beginning of last week.

In May Lion Nathan announced it had bought 13.5% of Montana at $2.30, and then completed a stand in the market for another 6.4%, also at $2.30. The company then continued to buy into the winemaker, including paying Guinness Peat Group (NZSE: GPG) $2.60 per share for its 15.7 million shares in September.

At the time Lion Nathan CEO Gordon Cairns said its Montana purchase was a strategic investment for Lion Nathan, consistent with the company's stated vision of a broader involvement in the New Zealand liquor market.

It also followed the acquisition of full ownership of NZ Wines and Spirits in July 1999, which gave Lion Nathan a leading portfolio of beer and spirit brands in New Zealand.

Montana shares closed up 5 cents at $3.55 yesterday, and the question now is what bid Lion intends to make for the rest of the shares, which will include the 20% stake owned by Montana chairman Peter Masfen.

Mr Masfen has been quoted in the past as saying he would not sell to Lion, but that was when the brewer was buying the shares at $2.30, and it was also before Montana had made its acquisition for Corbans wines from DB.

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