Scottish & Newcastle seeks white knight in takeover battle

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Takeover, Carlsberg

Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) is considering teaming up with
another brewer to buy Carlsberg's stake in Baltic Beverages
Holding, the Financial Times reported today.

If true, the move to find a white knight would be another salvo from S&N as it tries to ward off a joint hostile takeover bid from Carlsberg and Heineken. The takeover bid has left one of the fastest growing Eastern European brewers up for grabs, highlighting the possible difficulties in operating a company with an industry rival. An S&N spokesperson told that the company does not comment on what she said were "rumours". "All options are open to us,"​ she said. S&N and Carlsberg jointly own Baltic Beverages, which has turned into a lucrative money spinner as the Eastern European market explodes into growth. The Financial Times suggests SABMiller or Anheuser-Busch could be possible partners for S&N's defence strategy. Last week S&N rejected Carlsberg and Heineken's offer of 720p a share and said it was considering legal action against Carlsberg for allegedly breaching a shareholder agreement in Baltic Beverages Holding. The offer would have valued S&N and its stake in Baltic Beverages at £6.8bn (€9.7bn). S&N alleges that under Baltic Beverages' terms any party in breach of the agreement is then forced to offer its shares in the venture to the partner. The UK-based company claims the agreement over BBH was broken last week when Carlsberg indicated it was in talks with Heineken to take over S&N. In a statement Carlsberg has curtly responded to S&N's claims by claiming they had "no merit". Carlsberg and S&N have been partners in BBH since 2002, driving the company to become one of the major players in the burgeoning beer markets of countries like Russia. S&N's fight back follows Carlsberg and Heineken's announcement last week that they had entered into discussions over forming a consortium to purchase the brewer. In a joint statement, the potential buyers said that should a deal go ahead, they would look to split the group's regional operations between themselves. Through this plan, Heineken would therefore control S&N's Western European operations, including the UK market, while Carlsberg would claim full ownership of the Baltic Beverages Holding (BBH) division, which operates in Eastern Europe. During the first quarter of the year, BBH posted a 37.1 per cent increase in net sales to €1.3bn during the first half of the current fiscal year, resulting from its continued expansion into the region. Outside of BBH, S&N distributes and manufactures a number of leading beer and cider brands including Foster's, Kronenbourg 1664, Strongbow and John Smith's.

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