Hamish Champ: Sailing the stormy seas of business partnerships

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Corporation English-language films Carlsberg

Partnerships of all kinds - friends, families, marriages - go through rocky patches, some to come through stronger, others never to recover. In...

Partnerships of all kinds - friends, families, marriages - go through rocky patches, some to come through stronger, others never to recover.

In business too, relations between partners can sour when least expected. There you are, sailing along together in what you consider to be calm corporate seas, the sun of economic prosperity warming your face, and then BAM! - a wind's gotten up, clouds have gathered and waves the size of a five storey house have begun pounding your vessel.

Continuing my (admittedly somewhat overblown) nautical theme, if the joint venture between Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) and Carlsberg that is Baltic Beverage Holdings was a ship, by now the blessed thing would be heading full steam ahead for the rocks, its joint commanders - S&N's Sir Brian Stewart and Carlsberg's newly appointed chief executive Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen - fighting for control of the wheel.

Of course, despite the looming takeover battle for S&N, the business of BBH won't sink. While S&N fends off the unwanted attentions of Carlsberg and Heineken, its and Carlsberg's Eastern European brewing business will continue to operate at full tilt in markets where consumers are downing beer as if each glass were their last.

Less obvious, clearly, is who will own BBH after this corporate equivalent of the Battle of Jutland. I get the sense that S&N feels wounded, betrayed even, by a company it hitherto saw as a trusted business partner. Consequently it feels emboldened to defend its independence to the last.

Now, shareholders may take the view that reality of jam today is better than the prospect of more jam tomorrow, and the prospect of others entering the fray should not be discounted. The coming weeks, perhaps days, may well flush out more interested parties.

Meanwhile one could argue that Carlsberg's own credibility - and to an extent that of Heineken, which stands alongside it - is riding on the outcome.

And even if the bid for S&N succeeds, one suspects that anyone considering partnering the Danish brewer in future ventures might have cause to pause and reflect on who they are sailing with.

One thing's for sure: S&N sure as heck won't be rushing into such similar arrangements again in a hurry...

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