Express Dairies invited Wiseman into merger

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Express Dairies has held brief talks with its rival Robert Wiseman about a possible merger, although it is thought that a deal is unlikely to materialise in the near-term.</p>The discussions are understood to have taken place after an approach by Express Dairies' chairman, Lord Haskins, to his opposite number at Robert Wiseman, Alan Wiseman, last week. A tie-up between the firms would create a company capitalised at about £200m.</p>The talks, while not altogether over, are making slow progress, with an ongoing investigation into Robert Wiseman by the Office of Fair Trading making it impossible for the two executives to draw up firm plans. Earlier this month, the OFT raided Robert Wiseman's offices, and those of three other milk suppliers, as part of an investigation into alleged anti-competitive pricing.</p>However, there would appear to be no regulatory hurdles to a merger, despite Robert Wiseman controlling about two-thirds of the Scottish milk market. The authorities waved through last year's milk merger of Dairy Crest with Unigate's dairy interests. The industry has long been tipped to see a flurry of consolidation to address massive overcapacity that has slashed profit margins. </p>