CCI clears Diageo's United Spirits buy

Written by fe Bureau | Bangalore | Updated: Feb 28 2013, 10:17am hrs
Diageo's move to take a majority stake in Vijay Mallyas United Spirits (USL) has been cleared by the Competition Commission of India (CCI), paving way for the UK-based drinks company to complete the deal that includes making an open offer to public shareholders.

Diageos application has been approved by the Commission, said a source, adding that a formal communication is expected shortly, perhaps over the next week.

Last week, Diageo had submitted additional documentation required by the CCI, following which the processing of its application could be completed.

USL commanded a 41.3% share of the total Indian market, estimated at 295 million cases (each nine bulk litres), according to a March 2012 report of market research company Euromonitor International. In comparison, the India market share of Diageo, the worlds largest liquor company by revenue, was minuscule.

Market analysts have said that the USL acquisition is expected to nearly double Diageos global volumes to over 9% of the global spirits volumes, estimated at 20.2 billion litres in 2011.

In November, Diageo had announced a R11,166-crore deal to acquire 53.4% stake in Mallyas flagship liquor company. The deal was structured in two parts, which will see Diageo first acquiring a 27.4% stake by a share purchase from the promoters and two USL subsidiaries and also through a separate preferential allotment. This would trigger the open offer to public shareholders for a further 26% stake.

Sebi gave its final observations on the open offer on January 31 and, subsequently, also granted Diageo more time to start the open offer. The deal is seen as crucial for the UB Groups holding company, United Breweries Holdings, to deleverage itself from its exposure to the ailing Kingfisher Airlines. The group has previously said that it is in discussions with the airlines lenders on ways to bring down their exposure from the proceeds of the Diageo transaction.