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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Been scammed? Worried? Complain to the Insolvency Service

On today's BBC Money Box programme, in a follow-up item on wine investment featuring Ian Vanderhook and Vin Bordelais Ltd, the phoenix company of collapsed firm – Bordeaux UK Ltd, Robert Burns head of investigations at The Insolvency Service said he will welcome complaints from people concerned about wine investment companies. The Insolvency Service has the power to close dubious companies in the public interest. They guarantee to investigate complaints within seven days.

If the Insolvency Service believes there are grounds for action, they can petition the High Court to close the company in the public interest. If the petition is accepted, the company can be closed immediately with the petition heard in open court later giving the company an opportunity to fight the petition.

Details here of how to complain about a company to The Insolvency Service.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Concerned about your wine investment? Offer of assistance by Grant Thornton UK

Where's my Margaux? Where's my Lafite? Where's my Latour? 
Cellars of Château Margaux


Following the BBC's Money Box item on wine investment last Saturday, plus Paul Lewis's appearance that day on BBC Breakfast, the spotlight is firmly on wine investment scams. In February I posted details of a scheme run by Grant Thornton who may be able to assist you if you feel that you have been ripped off. For example if you discover that the bonded warehouse, where you thought your precious wine investment was safely, has either no record of the company you dealt with company or no record of you. 

Here is the post with details of Grant Thornton's UK LLP FinD team

If there are another companies that offer a similar service to Grant Thornton, I will be happy to post details here. 

There will be more on wine investment on BBC Money Box on Saturday starting at noon.    

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Nouveau World Wines: Five charged with fraud and money laundering

Five people have been charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering in connection with Nouveau World Wines that offered Australian wines as an investment, which allegedly did not exist. They have also been charged in relation to Finbow Fine Wines Ltd who allegedly promised quick profits in the Asia-Pacific drinks market. 

The five are: Kelly Humphries, 30, of Wallington, Surrey, Simon Robert Dempsey, 42, of Sidcup, Kent, Daniel Thomas Snelling, 36, of Sutton, Surrey, Dina Snelling, 34, of Chislehurst, Kent, and Rebecca McDonald, 42, of Bexleyheath, south-east London.

The initial arrests were made in March 2010 in connection with a police investigation into Nouveau World Wines and Finbow Fine Wines Ltd.

The five accused will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on May 11.    

Saturday, 14 April 2012

AS Fine Wine – I'll pass on this one, too!

AS fine Wine: wine consistently outperforms other investments

The Fine Wine Index has increased by 21.1% in the last 12 months 


No capital gains to pay on this tangible asset
Three incorrect claims on home page of AS fine Wine website


'AS Fine Wine' is another new entrant into the wine investment. It is the trading name of AS Incorporated Ltd, which was set up on 27th July 2011 (see above). Its website gives no information about who runs the company and the contact address – Third Floor, 207 Regent Street, London W1B 3HH – provides 'virtual office services, mail forwarding, telephone call answering, office space in the UK'. On this basis alone not a company I would buy from and there is further confirmation below. 

  


Table taken from Liv-ex's March 2012 newsletter.

Liv-ex's stats show that whatever of their four indices that you use fine wine has not gone up by 21.1% in the past year as AS fine Wine claim. Indeed over the past year all the Liv-ex wine indices have fallen and performed less well than the FTSE 100 and S&P 500. It is a different picture over the past five years with wine performing well against the FTSE 100 and S&P 500. Gold, however, has clearly outperformed both wine and share indices over last year and as well as over the last five years. 

Some pertinent quotes from the AS Fine Wine website: 


'At AS Fine Wine we pride ourselves in our large client base, developed from years of close relationships'. Impressively quick work for a company founded on 27th July 2011 – well less than a year ago!  

 Extensive market contacts – developed in eight months?
Now for an excellent piece of advice:  'Always deal with a wine investment company that has a good track record. See how they have performed in the past.' Exactly look for a company whose track record is longer than eight months.


More good advice – a warning about scam operators and 'When investing; be sure to invest with an established, reputable merchant to ensure the best investment and greatest potential growth.' Eight months does not make AS Fine Wine an 'established' merchant. 

Conclusion:
I'll follow AS Fine Wine's sage advice and definitely give them a miss.   





 





Beaumont Vintners Ltd in liquidation – few assets

Marriott Hotel, Bexleyheath: venue for creditors' meeting


Beaumont Vintners Ltd duly went into liquidation on Thursday 5th April 2012. During a meeting held Marriott Hotel in Bexleyheath, Nedim Ailyan of Abbott Fielding and David Ingram of Grant Thornton have been appointed as joint liquidators. The deficiency is understood to be £1.5 million and there are few assets. The deficiency includes between £600,000-£700,000 of orders placed by clients Beaumont Vintners Ltd for Bordeaux en primeur believed to be 2009s. Beaumont placed orders for between £30,000-£40,000 of en primeurs and these I understand from Nedim Aliyan are currently thought to be the company's sole assets. 

Samuel Philips, the sole director, was present at the creditors' meeting. Philips was appointed on 10.11.2011 following the resignation of Stephen Carpenter _ appointed 8.10.2010. It was clear from the meeting that Philips was a nominal or patsy director as he was not a signatory to the company bank account. Apparently Carpenter had remained a signatory. A Richard Evans had also been a director of the company – appointed 28.6.2010 and resigning on 9.2.2011. investdrinks understands that during the meeting at the Philips declined to name those who actually ran the company, which was set up on 18.6.2010.         
    

Bordeaux UK Ltd – an update on the liquidation
It has still not been possible to establish final figures, partly because the company's system was so poor and inadequate. There is between £300,000 and £400,000 worth of stock at the Octavian bond in Wiltshire, where it appears that customers' stock was switched without their knowledge between named customer reserves and Bordeaux UK's own account. There is over £2 million worth of 2009 en primeur that the company bought. It is planned to sell this through Sothebys auction house, although the timing of the sale will be delicate if the liquidators are to realise the best price for this stock. It is hoped that this will raise between £2.5 million - £3 million.

Overall current claims from creditors are between £8-£10 million but the actual figure is understood to be around £6 million as a number of creditors have claimed what they think their wine ought to be worth rather than what they paid for it. Furthermore because the figures have yet to be finalised Revenue and Customs have not yet be able to submit their claim for unpaid tax.

As things stand creditors are likely to get 30p in the £. investdrinks understands that due to the lack of proper systems of control at Bordeaux UK, the same stock might be sold several times over to different customers.  

Bordeaux UK on the BBC   
The BBC will be featuring Bordeaux UK later today with Paul Lewis covering this story and problematic wine investment on BBC Breakfast and then later on Money Box (Radio 4) at midday. See BBC story by Bob Howard here.

**

Lessons to be learned
Nedim Ailyan of Abbott Fielding estimates that investors may have lost over £100 million over the last four years as more than 50 wine investment companies have 'collapsed'. 

Although Bordeaux UK Ltd bought substantially more wine than Beaumont Vintners Ltd it appears did Beaumont Vintners Ltd, customers of both companies are going to be substantially out of pocket and for some this will represent a substantial loss on their life savings and consequently a reduced standard of living for their retirement. This is long-term mugging.

Do not fall for cold calls and aggressive, high pressure telesales tactics

Check out companies carefully before buying. This is particularly important when buying en primeur. Chris Kissack has some good advice here on en primeur particularly related to the 2011 Bordeaux vintage with the campaign just beginning.

Use price checkers like wine-searcher to see whether you are paying over the odds.

Set up your own account at a bonded warehouse making sure that your wine is quite separate from the company. With a customer reserve account your wine remains under the control of the company and your wine can be moved or even sold without your knowledge. 

Spread your risk – do not put all your savings into wine. 


Wine investment, except for wine funds, are not regulated. So if things do go wrong there is no compensation scheme


See also the WSTA (Wine & Spirit Association) wine investment guide
.     

Friday, 13 April 2012

1855 Fine Wine Investments Ltd – I think I'll pass...

1855 Fine Wine Investments Ltd: main webpage

1855 Fine Wine Investments Ltd is yet another recent entrant into the increasingly crowded wine investment market. Although it likes to claim 'Generating consistent and long-term investment returns for its clients', this company was set up on 3rd November 2011. 

One of the reasons the company gives for investing in wine is: 'The local French legislation introduced in 1855, barring high-end chateaux from enlarging their vineyards, hence limiting production' – although a nice idea this is complete rubbish as no such legislation was introduced in France in 1855 nor subsequently. Indeed Bordeaux châteaux can increase or decrease their size as they wish. However, the situation is different in Burgundy where the vineyards rather than the properties are classified, so areas are fixed.

1855 Fine Wine Investments Ltd claims to have developed 'trading models for illiquid wine assets'. I thought the whole point of wine investment was to invest in a 'liquid' asset that could be sold not one you can't sell!

Although as far as I know 1855 Fine Wine Investments Ltd has no connection with 1855 – the French internet wine Ponzi scheme, I still wouldn't consider buying wine from this company.        



Details from Companies House: founded 3.11.2011

Why investing in wine: 1855 legislation claim

'trading models for illiquid wine assets'