New brooms

Monday, 25 October, 2004
WineNews Editorial Team
Many people in the wine industry would like to be a fly on the wall of Danie de Wet’s office when strategies are being planned. Neil Pendock had the chance recently to ask some pertinent questions for an interview that appeared in the Financial Mail of 1 October 2004.

It is a challenging time in the industry as a whole and for KWV in particular as the company moves forward into a challenging business environment. When asked what his vision is for the future, Danie de Wet is absolutely clear about his answer.

'When I took over ... I had three aims; to take BEE politics out of KWV, to force management to focus on running KWV as a business and not a farming cooperative, and to stabalize the ownership of KWV. With over 7000 shareholders, we were a sitting duck for a takeover bid. Opportunistic people could shake the KWV - and they tried to. We need to build big linked blocks and keep these opportunists out.'

And are these blocks now in place?

'Thanks to the backing of Christo Wiese (he now owns 10% of KWV) our empowerment deal is back on track. When we started negotiating the deal we slipped up by leaving Cosatu out and we paid for that. We've now got all the players on board and our future is much more secure. I didn't want a Russian scenario with a few Oligarchs in control or a few fly-by-nights making a quick buck out of us. I think it's wrong to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few.'

Pendock probed De Wet about KWV's 30% share in Distell and De Wet responded by eluding to a future merger of our industry's two giants.

Said De Wet: 'Any wine industry has major players - we have two: KWV and Distell, neither of which is big enough to be an international force.  Both have good points and if they could merge to form a single company, it would be the best option for their respective shareholders, SA wine and the Western Cape.'

De Wet went on to cite the Australian example in which many major wine entities have been taken over by big internationals. De Wet seems to think the situation does not bode well for the future of Australian wine and that South Africans should guard against the same happening on home turf.

  'Commercial pressures will force KWV and Distell to work together. If the new combined company also has an empowered base, it will mean a lot for SA,' De Wet said and concluded:  'This is my dream.'  

So there we have it.

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