Decision on Interbrew's ownership of Bass Brewers delayed

Related tags Bass brewers Interbrew Trademark Bass brewery

The decision on the future of Bass Brewers has been further delayed after the focus of the DTI's deliberations shifted to the Scottish market.Trade...

The decision on the future of Bass Brewers has been further delayed after the focus of the DTI's deliberations shifted to the Scottish market.

Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt's (pictured)​ ruling on exactly how much of the Bass brands and brewing operation Interbrew will be allowed to keep had been expected last week.

However, the Government has apparently been lobbied by parts of the Scottish drinks industry fearful that the favoured Carling remedy will effectively stifle competition north of the border.

Having been told by the High Court to reconsider its initial ruling ordering Belgium-based Interbrew to sell Bass Brewers in its entirity, the Government put four possible solutions out to consultation at the beginning of the summer.

The so-called Carling remedy, the option backed by the Office of Fair Trading, would require Interbrew to dispose of the flagship lager brand but allow it to retain other interests including the Tennents brands and brewery in Glasgow.

However, Mrs Hewitt is said to be concerned that this solution will leave the Scottish beer market effectively dominated by two companies: Interbrew with Stella Artois and the Tennents brands; and Scottish & Newcastle with the McEwan's, Miller and Younger's brands.

The further delay leaves Heineken's probable £1.2billion bid for the Carling brand hanging.

Other proposed solutions are:

  • the sale of Bass Brewers in its entirety by Interbrew - the original solution which prompted the courts to order the Government to consult properly
  • the sale of the former Whitbread brands and breweries by Interbrew
  • the sale of the Tennents business in Scotland and the Bass brewery in Belfast, allowing Interbrew to retain Carling and some other brands.

The DTI retains its position that an announcement will be made "as soon as practicable".

Interbrew remains hopeful that a decision will be announced before the end of the month, while a Scottish & Newcastle spokeswoman said that the company "is watching the situation, but with no new statement from the DTI, we would not comment on speculation."

Related stories:

Heineken "to make play for Carling" (10 September 2001)

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