Belgian government backs Interbrew

Ministry will challenge U.K. ruling to force Bass sale

Feb 21, 2001 - Belgium will take the U.K. government to the European Court of Justice for blocking beer giant Interbrew's to buy the Bass brewing interest. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) last month ordered the Belgian brewer to sell all of Bass' U.K. interests in one package.


Trade Secretary, Stephen Byers, ruled that the combined Interbrew/Bass Brewers' 32% market share in the United Kingdom would give the group too much control in the sector. Byers said such control could result in higher prices for consumers because it would create a duopoly with rival Scottish & Newcastle. Analysts have speculated that job losses at a number of U.K. breweries might have also influenced the DTI decision.

The Belgian government will challenge the DTI ruling over "whether the European competition rules were properly respected." "We will file a complaint in six weeks," said a spokesman for the Belgian Ministry of Economics. Byers has given Interbrew six months to sell Bass.

EU member states can only take measures to maintain or re-establish competition in the market. Belgium believes the U.K. government has broken those rules.

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