pounds 215m bid for cider maker

CANANDAIGUA, the New York-based beer, wine and spirits producer and wholesaler, yesterday agreed to pay 243p a share in cash for Matthew Clark, the UK drinks wholesaler and cider maker.

The price offered by the fourth-biggest US drinks business is 81 per cent above the market price a fortnight ago just before Matthew Clark said that it was in possible takeover talks. It values the company at pounds 215m. Matthew Clark's board is recommending the bid.

Matthew Clark's profits reached pounds 42.3m in 1996 at the height of the popularity of cider, but fell back to pounds 37.9m in the year to 30 April in spite of the acquisition of Taunton Cider. Profits are expected to fall further in the current year.

The shares touched a peak of 801p two years ago, but fell to 134p last month. Yesterday they jumped by 48p to 239.5p.

Canandaigua intends to use Matthew Clark as a platform from which to make further acquisitions to raise its international profile, said Richard Sands, the president and chief executive officer.

Canandaigua is the second-largest wine producer and distributor in the US, the second-largest marketer of imported beers, and the fourth-largest spirits producer.

Of its four leading wine brands, only Paul Masson is known in the UK. Its main spirit brands, including Fleischman's gin, Barton vodka, Paul Masson brandy, Montezuma tequila and Canadian LTD whisky, are little known outside the US.

In its financial year to February 1998 Canandaigua made a profit of $84.9m (pounds 51.1m) on a turnover of $1.6bn.