Australia's CHAMP sees global wine cycle near bottom

MELBOURNE, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Australia’s CHAMP Private Equity firm said its $230 million purchase of Constellation Brands operations in Australia, Britain and South Africa comes near the cyclical low for the wine industry, and it sees strong upside for the business.

“At CHAMP we have dealt with these sorts of situations previously when most people are heading for the exit door and sometimes that’s the wrong door,” CHAMP Executive Chairman Bill Ferris told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“It is somewhere towards a cyclical low in this global wine sector, and the timing therefore may be sensible,” Ferris added.

CHAMP’s purchase of the maker of Hardy’s, Leasingham and Fox Ridge wines comes when the world’s top global winemakers are seeking to shed assets.

Constellation rival Brown-Forman Corp BFb.N said this week it may sell some of its California wines, while Australia's Foster's Group , the second-biggest wine maker after Constellation, is splitting its beer and wine units and is expected to attract offers in the new year.[ID:nL3E6NL1OU]

Constellation, the world’s No. 1 winemaker, announced earlier it will sell 80 percent of its operations in Australia, Britain and South Africa to focus on its most profitable brands and shore up its balance sheet. For details, see [ID: nSGE6BM0BZ] (Reporting by Victoria Thieberger; editing by Balazs Koranyi)