United Spirits to sell Whyte and Mackay to Emperador

By Nandita Bose, Reuters

Posted at May 09 2014 11:22 PM | Updated as of May 10 2014 07:22 AM

MUMBAI - India's United Spirits Ltd, said it had agreed to sell its Whyte and Mackay British whisky business to a unit of Philippine's Emperador Inc. for an enterprise value of 430 million pounds (USD 729 million).

The Indian spirits maker is being forced to sell Whyte & Mackay for antitrust reasons after Diageo Plc's move to buy a controlling stake in United Spirits.

The British competition authority has said Diageo's lower-end Bell's whisky competes with Whyte & Mackay's own-label and branded whisky and that its acquisition of United Spirits could lead to "a substantial lessening" in competition.

In April, Diageo launched a $1.9 billion bid to nearly double its stake in United Spirits to 54.8 percent. The Indian company was previously owned by tycoon Vijay Mallya, who has shed assets under a heavy debt load and after the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines.

United Spirits acquired Whyte & Mackay seven years ago from its former Chief Executive Vivian Imerman for 595 million pounds.

The Indian company said in a statement on Friday the sale of Whyte & Mackay was subject to regulatory approvals in India and Britain as well as from the Reserve Bank of India.

The central bank's approval is needed, because the sale will result in a significant write-off of loan amounts recoverable by United Spirits from its British subsidiary, the statement added. It did not give details.

Last year United Spirits mandated Rothschild, Rabo Bank and Standard Chartered to manage the sale process.