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NZ wine's premium international position under threat as falling profitability and rising indebtedness continues

NZ wine's premium international position under threat as falling profitability and rising indebtedness continues

As New Zealand wineries continue battling steadily declining profitability and rising indebtedness, an expected bumper 2011 grape harvest could undermine the industry’s premium international positioning, Deloitte is warning.

Accounting firm Deloitte and New Zealand Winegrowers released Vintage 2010, the fifth annual financial benchmarking survey for the New Zealand wine industry, today. Deloitte partner Paul Munro said an increase in bulk wine sales at reduced margins was resulting in falling profits across the board. The report notes that it's fair to say the industry in New Zealand is experiencing "a major financial crisis."

New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan said turbulence stemming from big 2008 and 2009 harvests, combined with the global financial crisis, continued to "afflict" all sectors of the industry. Munro said although a reduced 2010 vintage had gone some way towards alleviating over supply problems, predictions the 2011 harvest may top 300,000 tonnes threatened to add to the industry’s woes.

The 2010 vintage was 266,000 tonnes, both 2008 and 2009 came in at 285,000 tonnes. The wine industry topped NZ$1 billion worth of exports for the first time in the year to July 2009, with exports reaching NZ$1.01 billion. Gregan said at the time NZ$1 billion annual wine exports was the equivalent of five bottles per second.

“Future supply must be matched to global demand, otherwise a cheapening of our wines in key international markets could occur,” Mr Munro warned.

“This may result in a rapid undermining of the industry’s premium positioning, which has taken many years to build.”

He said currently the ability to price New Zealand wine at premium levels had a crucial flow-on effect for grape growers and domestic companies servicing the industry.

"Any reversal would have a similarly negative impact," said Munro.

"Large scale wineries (with revenue over NZ$20 million) continue to be the most profitable with an average profit before tax of 7.8%, while the smallest wineries (revenue under NZ$1 million) are suffering the most with an average loss of 31.9%. For the smaller wineries, this translates to a loss of around NZ$50 per case."

Insolvencies climb, land values fall

Munro told in July that all small and medium sized wine producers were probably now struggling to manage their debt. This is against a backdrop of a climbing insolvency rate in the wine sector squeezing banks between calls for more support for the indebted industry and falling land values and winery revenues.

In its latest bi-annual Financial Stability Report, the Reserve Bank said after a decade of rapid expansion in production, prices paid to contract grape growers had fallen sharply leading to a rise in non-performing loans.

"However, credit risks to the banking system are relatively contained as the viticulture sector accounts for only 0.5% of total bank lending," the central bank said.

According to New Zealand Winegrowers, the number of wineries grew to 585 by 2008 from 334 in 1999 with 29,310 hectares of production area, up from just 9,000 hectares in 1999.

Meanwhile, Munro said although falling winery revenues in the past few years had been matched by significant cost reductions, these appear to have bottomed out in 2010.

"Combined with static production costs, profitability has inevitably taken a hit,” said Munro.

"In general, there are a number of wineries from all the size categories measured in the survey which have generated reasonable returns, suggesting that there are viable business models for different sizes and circumstances across the industry. An ongoing problem with high debt levels, however, needs to be addressed in the year ahead, with all categories within the industry experiencing increasing indebtedness."

This was "particularly concerning" given the downward trend in land values and the fact that banks are "increasingly anxious" about land as security for outstanding debts.

“Banks and shareholders need to work together to examine the options and agree a plan to allow all stakeholders to move forward in a co-ordinated way,” Munro added.

Concerns about sourcing fresh capital and potential interest rate rises

The Vintage 2010 report notes that with significant indebtedness, falling land values and wineries potentially breaching banking covenants, banks can be expected to want wineries to raise additional capital to ease their exposure.

"However, sourcing additional capital will be far from easy."

A potential increase in interest rates is also a major concern for the sector given high debt levels already mean interest expense is a major cost to many wineries. The Official Cash Rate is currently 3% but most economists expect the Reserve Bank to lift it sometime next year.

"With interest rates being forecast to rise in the future this has the potential to create even more financial pain in an industry that is already hurting," the report says.

Meanwhile, Deloitte also points out that New Zealand Winegrowers recently made a submission to a Government discussion paper calling for excise tax to be levied at the point of sale rather than at the time it is released from the winery or licensed storage area, creating cash flow advantages for wineries.

"Other proponents are keen to see it become a percentage of the sale price rather than the current fixed rate, no matter what the sale price. It seems there is merit in creating a fairer system given we are in an environment of extreme price pressure and as prices per bottle drop, excise tax becomes a far greater proportion of the selling price."

Vintage 2010 tracks the results of 35 survey respondents, covering about 30% of the industry’s export sales revenue over the previous financial year.

(Update adds further detail).


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Nothing to see here, move along please....shift your arse...move!

Ummmmmmmmm , do they need some volunteers to assist in the environmentally friendly disposal of the excess stock on hand   ? ............ Doesn't do to keep it too long ( no dang fool is gonna pay for old bottles of wine , are they ! ) ............ I reckon I could help ...........

50 thousand cases are on their way us in US toilet paper around 2020...happy xmas. many cases will make it passed the docks?

......... When the semi-trailer gets to Panay Bay , I reckon there'd still be 11 or 12 cases left on it .............

D'yer reckon the 1600 sacked Zimbabwean central bankers could get jobs in the US ? Cranky Bernanke has got alotta loot to print toot sweet !

The Panay Bay Wine Trail....!

Plenty of help needed at the Fed....they have to repair hundreds of millions of new banknotes stuffed up in the effort to give Ben some ammo to throw out the chopper doors.....

Awww..... grape growers are really like 3rd world coffee bean growers. Everyone gets into the market when it's good, when supply increases, demand goes down.  Unlucky them...lucky me!

Yep..  well if you have been watching the prices at the supermarkets you can see the hurt all over the wine industry...  stock is being sold at bargain basement prices to generate cash and if the 2011 harvest is 'bumper' then you could see a lot of grapes rotting on the vines...

Great time to be building a cellar of decent wines at good prices...  if your not too busy paying off the credit card or mortgage that is....

Hopefully we'll get an influx of cheap capital from overseas hot markets, land prices will go up and wineries can borrow their way out of trouble on the back of (tax free) capital gains. Everyone wins.

"....otherwise a cheapening of our wines in key international markets could occur"

It has.

If you're positioning Sauvignon Blanc with a fantasy label in the German market at €3.99, how on earth do expect to be perceived as a premium product?

Ever again.

Prices are like chewing gum - they're sticky and once they've established themselves at a low level, you'll have difficulty removing them from that level.

That's what has been perlplexing me a bit: if their is a wine glut, how come prices hold up at the supermarket? When should we see prices slashed?

Will we see a "wine lake"?

I reckon that'd be a good thing ............ Hic ........... Shure I can shee two of 'em ............. Sheeeesh , wine lake ............. ooooooooooooooooh yeah ............. Hic ................... Who're you looking at , pal ! ........... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Yes- “Wine lakes” for irrigating the vines -  turning the Malborrows into "Vodka Land".

Heehee Wally take your glass to the river where you meet another one - me !

No, no it is not all lost for the Malborrow Pinot - there are millions of "Coladdicts" just waiting for a new product. :

Its a bit of a problem for banks. It costs 75k a hectare to develop a vineyard in many cases up to 50k a hectare for the land, the big but is that grapes like poorer land so without the grapes the land reverts to sheep country at 5-10k a hectare. If you look at bank lending criteria and say you had a 25 hectare vineyard( takes 3 years to produce) the value is at 125k a hectare, the  nice man at ANZ/National lent you %50, 75k a hectare. Now no buyers no market you are lossing money daily and the nice man at Anz/National has turned into a bit of a nervous twitchy sort of guy. You pull the grapes sell to the sheep farmer down the road at 5k a hectare the bank is still looking for its millions. 

 There is going to be massive pulling up of grapes or at least there needs to be, the banks are not so keen watching THEIR investment go down the drain. Its a lose lose senario.

It is just as case of market sav...!

The whole sector is going through the reversal of the bubble that went on for 25 years and then some.....since the banks down here refuse to let the market determine the true value on the vineyard land by holding back on the mortgagee sales...we are probably in for a very protracted slump as one after the other they are bulldozed and the land returned to the sheep.

This is just another chapter in the bubble and crash economy. Next up will be what....truffle growing! there anything else not driven up to mania levels only to implode on overproduction or disease or whatever.

Land prices across Marlborough have collapsed by 40 to 50%. A recent sale of a sheep station had the price drop some 40% I am told. The asking price was up there in the clouds. And that's with lamb prices at record highs. So go figure what drove the prices to the bubble levels they reached. it was...repeat utterly insane situation. Thanks to the banks continuing to refuse to accept reality and balance sheet blood...younger folk who might have gone onto farms are walking away. The rural communities are dying. Small schools are gone. The bloody grape madness helped with this closedown. Vineyard labour came in from overseas when it was needed and then departed...Remember the criminal activities?...surely you can. 

At the heart of this failure we find the banks. They were doing the rounds in Marlborough trying to drum up new vineyard development right up into mid specially planned meetings they would spin the BS and urge the land owners to borrow and plant the grape. The pressure to follow this lead was cranked up every which way at every turn. The smart farmers told them to feck off. They stayed with the sheep even though the lamb proces then were shit.

Wolly, you're a typical envious whining greenie socialist, bashing poor hard-working vintners.