India. Heineken takes larger swig, ups UB stake to nearly 44 per cent

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Dutch brewer Heineken International on Wednesday moved closer to gaining a controlling stake in India’s largest beer manufacturer United Breweries (UB), acquiring 4.2 million equity shares through bulk deals on the stock exchange. Heineken spent around Rs 358 crore to increase its stake in the beer company to 43.97% from 42.38%.

UB’s original promoter Vijay Mallya, who has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate and accused of defaulting on bank loans, continues to hold 32.29% stake.

The sellers included ECL Finance and Yes Bank and the average price of shares, bought on Wednesday, works out to Rs 846.27 apiece, marginally higher than Wednesday’s closing price.
The UBL shares closed 0.93% lower at R834.75 per share on the BSE.

In 2005, the UB Group had divested 37.5% stake to the Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) Group, making it an equal partner in UBL, while the acquisition of S&N made the Dutch beer giant the co-promoter of UBL. Heineken had also acquired more than 1% through an open-market transaction in December 2013.

In July last year, Heineken had bought a 3.21% stake in UBL for a consideration of Rs 872 crore from Diageo-owned United Spirits, which ceased to be a promoter in the company.

Mallya, who owes around R9,091 crore to a consortium of banks led by State Bank of India (SBI), had already sold United Spirits to Diageo in 2012 for $2.1 billion. Mallya is currently out of the country as banks have moved the courts seeking his arrest and confiscation of his passport. They have also managed to stop the $75-million exit payout Mallya got from Diageo for resigning as chairman of the spirits company. However, Diageo had already paid $42 million to Mallya on the day he signed the agreement on February 25.

Mallya has also lost control in his other UB Group company, Mangalore Chemicals and Fertilisers.