World's brewing giants to fight it out for Carling

Related tags Bass brewers Trademark Interbrew

Heineken and Anheuser-Busch are said to be the top contenders in the bidding war for lager brand Carling when it is put on the market later this...

Heineken and Anheuser-Busch are said to be the top contenders in the bidding war for lager brand Carling when it is put on the market later this year.

Analysts say South African Breweries (SAB) is also in the running for the top brand, which is being sold by Belgian brewing giant Interbrew on the orders of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Interbrew confirmed last week it was planning to sell Carling (latest ad campaign pictured)​ after being given a choice by Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt of selling off either Bass Brewers or Carling Brewers.

City analyst Stuart Price said he believed the most likely buyers for the Carling package would be Heineken, SAB or Anheuser-Busch. He added that he did not believe Carlsberg-Tetley would be allowed to bid because it already has 12 per cent of the market share.

He said: "Even though management was not able to achieve the optimal solution of keeping the Carling brand, it has been able to keep more market share than was permitted under the original ruling."

The DTI ruling, made earlier this week, follows a judicial review in May which forced it to reconsider its earlier ruling that Interbrew should sell the whole of Bass' brewing arm, purchased at the end of last year.

Interbrew confirmed it will go for the so-called Carling Brewers remedy, which involves Interbrew retaining the businesses of Bass Brewers in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Tennent's and Bass Ale brands.

The remainder of the Bass Brewers UK business, including the Carling brand, will be sold.

The other route, the Bass Brewers option, would have seen Interbrew sell off the whole Bass package, leaving it with only 10 per cent of the market share.

The Carling option will leave Interbrew with 15 per cent.

The Belgian brewer welcomed the DTI's decision, and confirmed that it would work to finalise the sale of the Carling Brewers division "as soon as reasonably possible".

Hugo Powell, chief executive of Interbrew, said: "We are pleased with the decision, which clears the way for us to strengthen our UK platform as well as our international brand portfolio."

The Transport and General Workers' Union's national organiser, Brian Revell, said: "It seems likely now that the Carling brand will be sold.

"If that is the case, we would want to see it bought by a reputable international brewer and not a venture capitalist."

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said it continued to back the Bass Brewers remedy.

In a statement it said: "The crucial thing now will be to assess which of the potential buyers of either the brands or the business will provide a competitive market place for licensed retailers."

Related stories:

Decision made on Interbrew's takeover of Bass Brewers (18 September 2001)

Decision on Interbrew's ownership of Bass Brewers delayed (17 September 2001)

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

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