Indian brewer takes UK stake

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The Independent Online
UNITED Breweries, one of India's largest drinks companies, is believed to be pushing ahead with its UK expansion plans by buying a large stake in Wiltshire Brewery.

Dealings in shares in Wiltshire, brewer of Old Grumble, were suspended on the Unlisted Securities Market yesterday with the price languishing at a year's low of 10p.

The company said it had reached agreeement for a 'major overseas brewing and spirits group' and a 'major UK brewer' to subscribe for shares in conjunction with a fund-raising placing.

Three executives from the overseas group will be appointed to the Wiltshire board. Wiltshire is run by Graham Axford, who previously worked for James Capel, the broking house.

Wiltshire declined to expand further, except to say the suspension had been called pending publication of the company's report and accounts for the year ended 30 November 1991.

The Companies Act stipulates that annual reports have to be produced seven months after the year-end. Fines can be levied for failure to comply with the law.

Wiltshire's last results showed a slump from profits of pounds 10,000 to losses of pounds 274,000 in the six months to March 1991.

Industry sources are convinced that the foreign group buying into Wiltshire is United, run by Vijay Mallya. He has already forged a trading link with Shepherd Neame, the Kent brewer.

Shepherd brews Kingfisher beer under a licence agreement with United. Kingfisher is widely sold in Indian restaurants in the UK.

Mr Mallya has made no secret of his plans to find UK oulets for United's products which, besides beer, include a range of spirits.

Sources say the UK company involved is Bass. Wiltshire last year raised funds from a rights issue to buy 12 pubs from Bass.