Scrutiny for Bass deal

U.K. asks to handle competition review of Interbrew buyout

Aug 2, 2000 - Stephen Byers, Great Britain's trade and industry secretary, has requested permission from the European Union to handle the competition review of Interbrew 2.3 billion pound ($3.5 billion) buyout of the Bass brewing business.


The deal is being reviewed by the European Commission, the EU's clearinghouse for mergers. Under EU law, the Commission reviews deals when the combined worldwide sales of the companies involved total at least 5 billion euros ($4.6 billion), and each company has EU-wide sales of at least 250 million euros.

An EU member nation can request that a certain review be referred back to it if it believes the deal raises competition concerns within a distinct market in its home territory.

"The Director of Fair Trading has advised that the proposed merger raises competition concerns in a distinct market in the U.K. which warrant further investigation. I agree and am therefore requesting the European Commission to refer the case to the U.K.," Beyers said.

Belgian-based Interbrew, which acquired Whitbread's brewing business for 400 million in June and would have 32% of the market after buying Bass, declined to comment on the decision.

The Commission can decide to handle the Interbrew-Bass review itself or refer all or part of it back to the U.K. authorities.

Interbrew, which owns the Stella Artois brand, is said to believe that there are no substantial regulatory hurdles, given Scottish & Newcastle's 29% share and the competition from three other brewers in the U.K. market. It said that in some European markets, the leading brewer has much larger shares. Heineken controls more than 80% of the Greek market, while Carlsberg has more than 70% of Denmark.

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