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Diageo to sell Whyte & Mackay for £430M

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By Nicholas Robinson+

12-May-2014
Last updated the 12-May-2014 at 13:34 GMT

Diageo’s United Spirits has agreed to sell its whisky brand Whyte & Mackay to Philippines-based brandy business Emperador for £430M, following Office of Fair Trading (OFT) concerns.

The deal, announced last week (May 9) and confirmed to FoodManufacture.co.uk by a source close to the business, will also see Emperador assume Whyte & Mackay’s debt.

Diageo, the world’s largest distiller, acquired Whyte & Mackay last year after buying controlling shares in its parent company United Spirits.

City analysts were not surprised by the announcement. "I think everybody knew that they were going to have to sell it for competition reasons," Andrew Holland, Société Générale beverage analyst, told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

"The only real issue was who was going to buy it and what they would pay for it, and Diageo got a good price from Emperador for it," added Holland.

Shedding Whyte & Mackay is of little consequence for Diageo, according to Holland, who said it was not a well-regarded Scotch brand and served no obvious purpose in Diageo's portfolio.  

Subject to approval

The sale is subject to approval in India and the UK and was reportedly recommended by United Spirit’s board of directors in a meeting this morning (May 9), following OFT concerns that last year’s takeover could lead to higher blended whisky prices in the UK.

Diageo, which reported organic net sales growth of 0.3% in its interim management statement for the nine months ending March 31, owns around 29% of United Spirits.

United Spirits bought Whyte and Mackay for around £600M in 2007. Whyte & Mackay has four distilleries and it has yet to be confirmed if any will be retained or not.

Whyte & Mackay was founded in 1844 by Charles Mackay and distils five different blends of whisky, including a 22 year-old blend and a 30 year-old blend.

Emperador is owned by one of the Philippines’s largest conglomerates, Alliance Global, and reported sales of nearly £400M in 2013.

£1bn investment plan

Earlier this year Diageo announced plans to pump £30M into its Scottish whisky distillery in Sutherland, as part of the business’s ongoing £1bn investment programme to increase its Scotch whisky production.

The company was also at the centre of a media storm in February this year when a TV advert for its Captain Morgan rum fell foul of the Advertising Standards Authority, after complaints that it linked alcohol consumption with adventure.

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