India. Heineken plea for ‘first right’ on United Breweries share sale dismissed

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Tribunal says Heineken’s claims can’t be taken up for consideration at this point as the liabilities of the main defendants itself has not been adjudicated

Heineken NV’s attempt to increase its stake in United Breweries Ltd (UBL) fizzled out on Saturday as the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) dismissed the application by Dutch beer maker which had sought ‘first right’ on any sale of seized shares.

Heineken, which has 43% stake in UBL-filed an Interlocutory Application (IA) on 18 June seeking to implead itself in the original application (OA) filed by a consortium of banks seeking led by State Bank of India to recover over Rs.9,000 crore dues from embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s grounded Kingfisher Airlines Ltd (KFA).

In its order on Saturday, the tribunal said that Heineken’s claims for first right of refusal cannot be taken up for consideration at this point as the liabilities of the main defendants including United Breweries Holdings Ltd (UBHL), Mallya and KFA among others itself has not been adjudicated.

Heineken was interested in 20.9 million shares of UBL valued at around Rs.1,500 crore.

More importantly, the shares account for around 7% of the company, according to one person familiar with the developments.

This would essentially taken Heineken’s total to 50% in UBL.

The developments come at a time when there is speculation that Heineken will also seek the removal of Mallya as chairman of UBL.

Heineken acquired a 37.5% stake in UBL in 2008 through its takeover of Scottish & Newcastle and has since increased its holding to 42.4% and periodically increasing its share in one of the fastest growing beer markets globally.

On 24 March, Heineken confirmed that it had acquired 21.15 lakh shares of UBL taking its total shareholding from 42.2% to 43%.

Heineken cannot buy shares of UBL from the market according to an agreement between them and Mallya, said the person cited above on the condition of anonymity.