28/05/2008 - 22:00

Boutique brewer Empire seeks new direction

28/05/2008 - 22:00

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Boutique brewing company Empire Beer Group Ltd has moved to review its strategic direction, following the resignation of its acting chief executive.

The Subiaco-based brewer said last week that acting CEO Brendan Cocks had given notice.

In a statement, the company said Mr Cocks had been instrumental in the brand development of its subsidiary, the Colonial Brewing Company, and would remain with Empire until Thursday June 12.

Empire non-executive director Ian Macliver said the brewer would reassess its strategic direction and review its asset portfolio to consider new business opportunities.

The company also announced a successful $600,000 capital raising through the issue of 600 convertible notes, at an issue price of $1,000 per note.

Empire will use the funds for brand development and to maintain its two licensed venues, The Royal on the Waterfront in East Perth and Colonial's Margaret River brewery.

The brewing company is the latest in a string of WA boutique beer makers to rethink current market strategies and corporate direction in the midst of tough times.

"It's no more or less an 'as you do' review that may, may involve a new direction," Mr Macliver said. "We might stay doing what we are doing now and find we don't need a change."

Palmyra-based Gage Roads Brewing Company, which began a strategic overhaul after the resignations of former managing director Peter Nolin and chairman Michael Perrott in October 2007, signed a national distribution agreement with VOK Beverages this week.

Gage Roads joined Oz Brewing Ltd and Empire in handing down disappointing half-year results in March.

Oz Brewing has diversified by purchasing a shed and transportable accommodation manufacturer from one of its directors.

At the company's May 20 shareholders' meeting, a $4 million capital raising was flagged by Oz, as was its new company name, SCG Corporation, which managing director Trevor Pugh said stood for 'strong capital growth'.

The share price of Empire, Gage Roads and Oz Brewing, which brews and sells European-style beers under the Mad Monk label in Fremantle, have all been weak over recent months.

They have struggled to keep pace with Little World Beverages, the company behind the successful Little Creatures brand, which was the first of the current crop of boutique brewers to list on the ASX.

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