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
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

The benefits of Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Finance Assistant - Part time - 9 month FTC

£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...

Marketing Manager

£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes