S&N bidders told to 'put up or shut up'

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Carlsberg and Heineken have been given five weeks to launch a formal bid for Scottish & Newcastle or withdraw from bidding for the Edinburgh brewer for at least six months.

The Takeover Panel yesterday imposed a 21 January deadline after a request from the brewer of Kronenbourg 1664 and Newcastle Brown Ale. S&N hit out again at the 7.3bn offer, calling it "an opportunistic attempt... to secure a unique portfolio of assets below their full value".

The bidding partners said the move will "focus all parties on the merits of our proposal", adding that "the consortium wants to engage with the board of Scottish & Newcastle as soon as possible, so that we can agree the terms of a full recommended offer by the deadline".

In an announcement to the stock exchange, S&N said it was pushing ahead with its effort to wrest control of Baltic Beverages Holding, the Russian beer unit owned by it and Carlsberg. S&N has accused Carlsberg of breaching its shareholder agreement when it launched its offer in October and says it is now under a legal obligation to sell its 50 per cent stake in BBH to S&N.

S&N, which has initiated arbitration proceedings, said yesterday that it was "confident that Carlsberg's breaches of the shareholders' agreement will give S&N the opportunity to acquire Carlsberg's shares in BBH". Carlsberg and Heineken, who raised their initial 720p-per-share bid to 750p, argue that the offer is "full and fair".