Virgin Wines up for auction as lockdown sales pop

·2-min read
Richard Branson holds a press conference to introduce "VIRGIN WINES"
The company was established two decades ago by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. Photo: Brian ZAK/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Online wine retailer Virgin Wines is to be put up for sale after demand for alcohol surged during lockdown.

Shareholders have appointed bankers to handle an auction in the coming months, Sky News first reported, although the process is at an early stage.

The company, which was established two decades ago by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, has drafted in advisers from the corporate finance house Lincoln International to help it explore its options.

Virgin Wines was bought by Direct Wines in 2005 and changed hands again in 2013 after Mobeus Equity Partners and Connection Capital provided debt and equity funding for a buyout.

In its most recent annual accounts, Virgin Wines reported a pre-tax profit of £1.7m ($2.2m) for the year to the end of June 2019.

It comes after UK shoppers spent £261 more on alcohol in supermarkets and grocery stores in the four weeks to 4 October, as the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme came to an end and pubs and bars were hit with a 10pm curfew.

According to the latest figures from research firm Kantar, total sales rose 10.6% last month, up from 8% the previous month. It was the busiest four week period since shoppers began stockpiling in March.

READ MORE: Alcohol and takeaway sales soar under UK lockdown

Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at the data company Kantar, said: “Shoppers are moving a greater proportion of their eating and drinking back into the home. This is likely a response to rising Covid-19 infection rates, greater restrictions on opening hours in the hospitality sector, and the end of the government’s eat out to help out scheme.”

Earlier this week, police said that they were having difficulty enforcing social measures after the 10pm curfew on pubs amid calls for the sale of alcohol in shops to be banned from 9pm.

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation, said police were struggling to disperse crowds with limited numbers of officers.

Meanwhile Nottinghamshire, which was placed under Tier 3 measures on Friday, confirmed a ban on off-licence alcohol sales after 9pm.

Yahoo Finance has reached out to Virgin Wines for comment.

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