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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

The fast-expanding CL World Brands group has purchased ChateauOnline, the leading online wine merchant, and has revealed it has one or two' UK-based companies in its sights for 2005. Purchased from its venture capitalist backers for an undisclosed sum, ChateauOnline sold 50,000 cases last year, with a value of around e10 million. Although it has yet to make a net profit in the seven years it has been trading, CL World Brands chief executive Arnaud de Trabuc said ChateauOnline broke even last year and that the heavy losses suffered in its early years were now behind it. We believe in the future of e-commerce, and it is a business model we wanted to learn more about,' de Trabuc told Harpers. We haven't set our targets for growth yet, but sales outside France [which represent 50% of turnover] grew strongly last year, including in the UK, and we feel we can build on that by including our own brands [on the site].' Owned by the Trinidad-based finance group CL Financial, CL World Brands has expanded rapidly into the drinks business in recent years, and last year turned from buying producers - such as Hine Cognac, Burn Stewart Distillers and Cruzan Rum - to buying distributors, such as London-based distributor and wine importer Paragon Vintners. De Trabuc said there were a number of acquisitions on the way for 2005 with one, possibly two', in the UK, and a large' deal due in the Far East in the second half of the year. De Trabuc said: We sold $450 million of drinks globally last year and our target is to reach sales of $1 billion by 2007. We think this is achievable because Cruzan rum is growing fast in the US and should reach annual sales of one million cases by then.' He added his targets for the UK were: to double sales of Angostura by 2007; to get Cruzan widely distributed and to increase sales of its whisky brands, particularly Black Bottle.