Interbrew appeals antitrust ruling

But Belgian brewer resigned to selling Bass brewing operations

Jan 26, 2001 - Belgian brewer Interbrew says it will appeal a decision by antitrust authorities in the United Kingdom to block its $3.36 billion acquisition of the Bass brewing assets, while admitting it will be forced to sell Bass.


The legal action is an attempt to make the sale process less damaging to the business. Interbrew wants the courts to look at the ruling earlier this month of the decision by Stephen Byers, the United Kingdom trade and industry secretary, to force Interbrew to dispose of Bass Brewers.

Hugo Powell, Interbrew chief executive, said the company had been advised that it was unlikely to succeed in overturning the decision by the U.K. Competition Commission. Instead it wants the courts to give it more time to effect a disposal and allow a greater range of possible bidders to be considered - including financial buyers.

Interbrew wants to inject new capital into Bass Brewers to make the business more competitive and obtain a better return from the buyer of Bass Brewers, Powell said. "If it is more viable, they will pay us more. When we tested who would be qualified (as buyers) there was a shortened list, which was uncomfortably short."

The Belgian brewer also disclosed details of a write-down it is taking against its 2000 financial results to cover the potential consequences of the decision. Powell said this represented the bulk of the goodwill paid for the Bass business - excluding that for the export arm, flavored alcoholic drinks and a European business, all of which Interbrew intends to keep.

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