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Halewood to shut US office and cut jobs

UK-based Halewood Wines & Spirits will close its US subsidiary after less than a year in operation and will make a number of voluntary redundancies due to covid-19.

Halewood acquired Australian producer Ironbark Distillery last year, at the time as opening its import business in the country

The Liverpool-headquartered company, which produces Whitley Neill gin and Crabbie’s Scotch whisky, has been “hit very hard financially” by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement from Halewood Wines & Spirits.

Group CEO Stewart Hainsworth said the firm has “lost important sales revenue from bars, restaurants and pubs across the UK and the duty-free trade, while also experiencing a sizeable downturn in export sales”.

As a result, Halewood has introduced a voluntary redundancy scheme, however the group didn’t confirm how many jobs were at risk.

“Regrettably the covid-19 outbreak does mean we are introducing a scheme of voluntary redundancies and the closure of some sites,” said Hainsworth. “This includes closure of our operations in the US and downsizing our Australian business.”

Hainsworth said the company had taken “immediate steps to safeguard jobs and attempt to secure the long-term future of a business founded over 40 years ago”.

The group’s US office in Miami, which opened last May, is in the process of being closed. Other unnamed sites will also be shut, according to the statement.

In addition, the company’s Australia business is also being downsized. Sydney-based unit Halewood Australia was established in March 2019 to import and market the group’s British products.

The opening of the import business was announced at the same time as the producer acquired a majority stake in New South Wales-based Ironbark Distillery.

Minimise disruption

Hainsworth added: “We are looking at government measures to attempt to minimise the financial disruption caused by covid-19 and will continue to take any steps we can to protect jobs and help steer the company through this difficult and uncertain period.”

In the year ending 30 June 2019, Halewood reported group revenues were up 26% to £335 million (US$416m), driven by the “strong performance” of Whitley Neill in the UK.

The financial update in January 2020 also said construction was “progressing well” for the Crabbie’s distillery in Edinburgh and the Bankhall English whisky distillery in Blackpool, UK. The sites are due to be completed at the end of 2020.

The group operates a number of distilleries across the UK, including the Aber Falls Distillery in North Wales, City of London Distillery, Liverpool Gin Distillery, and the new Bristol & Bath Rum Distillery.

Earlier this year, Halewood Wines & Spirits acquired a 48% stake in Vestal Vodka for an undisclosed sum.

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