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Lanson for sale?

Published:  23 July, 2008

The bank that saved Lanson International from insolvency last year, Caisse d'Epargne, has signalled that it is willing to sell its 44% stake in the company - while speculation remains that the Mora family, which owns the rest of Lanson's capital, would also be prepared to sell.

Meanwhile, private equity firms and competitors are queuing up to bid for the Taittinger Champagne house, which just over two weeks ago gave potential bidders until 20 July to table a firm offer. Reports in France state that as many as seven companies are preparing to make a bid.

Despite Lanson being the second-largest producer in the region and Taittinger just the sixth, the latter business may sell for a higher price (around e700) due to the fact it owns large amounts of the region's most valuable assets: vineyards, almost 280 hectares of them.

Lanson, in contrast, has to buy almost its entire grape input from growers. With prices for grapes in

Champagne reaching almost e6 a kilo last harvest, grape costs can account for almost half the wholesale price of

the final bottle.

In the past two years, LVMH has sold two Champagne brands - Pommery and Canard Duchne - but tellingly, kept hold of their vineyards.

A spokesman for Caisse d'Espargne said, however, that it was not desperate to sell, and would only do so if the purchaser's plans were in line with the development plans of the company'.

Lanson, which until earlier this year was called Marne & Champagne, has for a number of years being trying to sell more of its premium brands and less of the low-margin own-label business that has been its traditional strength.