‘Chocfingers’ hedge fund drunk on wine success

St Aubyn Leschallas Wines is the main distributor for Vondeling in the UK and sells all its 12 varieties

Michael Bow
Saturday 21 November 2015 02:12

A hedge fund co-founded by the trading tycoon dubbed “Chocfinger” has found respite from a period of turbulence with help from an unlikely source – wine.

Armajaro, the Mayfair-based firm linked to Anthony Ward, whose nickname derives from an audacious cocoa punt, has turned a profit in its UK wine sales company for the first time.

St Aubyn Leschallas Wines, a joint venture between Armajaro and wine experts Rupert St Aubyn and Simon Leschallas, generated sales of $1.3m (£850,000), making a slim $7,000 profit for the year ending December 2014 – the first since it was founded in 2010.

The hedge fund’s South African winemaking business, Vondeling, also increased year-on-year sales and benefited from the weak South African rand. The wines have recently won a clutch of awards, including a trophy at the Six Nations Wine Challenge in Australia.

St Aubyn Leschallas Wines is the main distributor for Vondeling in the UK and sells all its 12 varieties, with a case of the 2010 Erica Shiraz costing £82.

Armajaro is best known for bold commodity bets. But away from the hum of central London, it owns a 40-hectare vineyard in the Paarl region of South Africa, where it has the capacity to produce around 37,500 gallons of wine. The venture is a much-needed boost for the group, which has shrunk dramatically over the past two years from a large conglomerate into a small fund management business led by chief executive Harry Morley. The company was founded by Mr Ward and business partner Richard Gower in 1998 but had to sell its huge commodity trading business in 2013 after losing $103m. It made a profit of almost $1m last year.

Armajaro’s maiden commodity fund has also closed after losing money, while payouts have plunged amid an exodus of fund managers.

Mr Ward hit the headlines in 2010 when he bought 240,000 tons of cocoa – 7 per cent of the world’s crop – in a punt that sent prices soaring to their highest since 1977. The trade earned him his nickname in reference to the Bond villain Goldfinger.

Armajaro and Mr Ward declined to comment.

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