Mallya to announce takeover of Whyte & Mackay today

Updated on May 16, 2007 09:36 AM IST
The takeover over Whyte & Mackay will notch yet another milestone for the global spread of Indian enterprise.
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IANS | By, London

India's flamboyant spirits and aviation tycoon Vijay Mallya is set to announce on Wednesday the takeover over Whyte & Mackay, one of the Britain's biggest drinks company, notching yet another milestone for the global spread of Indian enterprise.

The deal, expected to be announced at the Glasgow Hilton Hotel at 9.30 am GMT, will be the latest of a spate of takeover of British and European businesses by Indian entrepreneurs such as Ratan Tata (who bought Corus) and Lakshmi Mittal (Arcelor).

Industry sources say that Mallya is likely to use the takeover of Whyte & Mackay as the springboard for a London listing of his fast-growing spirits empire. The price at which Mallya buys the company will be known on Wednesday but sources variously estimated it between 550 million and 650 million pounds.

It will also add a new dimension to the ongoing fractious dispute involving the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) seeking to force India to lower its import duty regime on spirits so that Scotch exports to India could expand.

Mallya, a Rajya Sabha MP, is perceived by the SWA as a major stumbling block to Indian lowering its imports regime, since it would adversely affect his majority market standing in the large Indian domestic market.

The Whyte & Mackay acquisition will offer not only a ready global market access to Mallya's company, United Breweries, but also a huge basket of premium and vintage spirit brands to its product portfolio, which the company has been eyeing for years. Its products include brands such as Isle of Jura and Dalmore single malts.

The deal will net huge windfalls for Whyte & Mackay's current owners, chairman Vivian Imerman and his brother-in-law, Robert Tchenguiz, who bought the whisky distiller, which is Britain's largest producer of own-label scotch, for 200 million pounds.

Whyte & Mackay employs 600 people and is expected to record profits of more than 50 million pounds in the current financial year. It said over the weekend that it expected to see annual growth of at least 20 per cent over the next five years.

Speaking over the weekend, Immerman, who owns two-thirds of the company, said the talks were Mallya were at an "an advanced stage" and a deal could be reached this week. He believed that 700 million pounds was a fair price to pay for the company.

He said: "I think the business is worth more than that. It is a very valuable business. The business is doing exceptionally well. I have been able to grow the top line significantly and double the bottom line."

Mallya's company already has a strategic beer alliance with Edinburgh-based Scottish & Newcastle.

Incidentally, the United Breweries Group has Scottish origins, having been founded in 1915 by a Scot called Thomas Leishman.

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