Guinness decision this week

The European Commission is to give an early verdict on the planned GrandMet merger

The European Commission will rule on Wednesday whether to approve the merger between Grand Metropolitan and Guinness, amid further speculation about which brands the companies will have to divest in return for approval.

The two companies recently offered to sell four brands of Scotch - but not their top-selling J&B, Johnnie Walker or Dewar's lines - to satisfy the Commission's objections, according to sources familiar with the case.

The offer suggests GrandMet and Guinness are going to fight to retain their most prominent Scotch brands, even though competitors argue that concentrating those leading brands in a single company would mean higher prices for consumers.

A spokesman for the Commission said the executive agency of the European Union will be able to conclude its five-month investigation into the planned merger ahead of the 27 October deadline.

"We have now done our homework," he said, declining to add what undertakings the companies had offered. All that remained were "some further technical discussions" before the ruling.

Guinness and GrandMet officials refused to comment on the EU review. A spokesman for the companies in London said he had not been told officially that the ruling would come on 15 October. "Until a judgment is handed down by the people in power, we aren't going to say a word," he said.

In August, the Commission said the combined company would have too much control of the spirits market in Greece, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Britain. The Commission said the new company formed by the merger, GMG Brands, could thwart competition for three products - Scotch whisky, gin and vodka.

The GrandMet-Guinness proposal would attempt to address those charges by selling the rights to four brands - Ainslie's, Haig, White Horse and Vat 69 - throughout Europe. The proposal also offers other concessions on a country-by-country basis, according to a source close to the case.

While the Commission rarely blocks mergers or acquisitions, it can force the companies involved to sell off assets in order to reduce their market share in specific countries or of specific products.

The merger also needs anti-trust approval from the US Federal Trade Commission, which is expected to make a decision this autumn. GMG faces similar competition issues in the US. Although the company would have only about 25 per cent of the US distilled spirits market, it would have 60 per cent of the standard Scotch market, according to industry research group Impact International.

Analysts predict that GMG will probably have to sell the US rights to some product lines as well, possibly including the Guinness Dewar's brand, which has a high sales volume but a low profit margin.

The proposed merger also has come under fire from Bernard Arnault, chairman of the French drinks and luxury goods company LVMH.

Mr Arnault is seeking to have his company, which owns more than 10 per cent of the stock of GrandMet and Guinness, included in the proposed combination.

Spirits rivals Seagram and Allied Domecq are also opposing the merger.

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

£50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker