Interbrew halts case over leaked documents

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The Independent Online

Interbrew, the Belgian brewer, announced last night that it would take no further legal action against The Independent and four other news organisations that have been refusing to return leaked documents.

The company, famous for its Stella Artois and Becks beer brands, said it was instead handing the matter over to the Financial Services Authority.

The bid documents at the heart of the battle were sent anonymously to journalists last year and detailed a possible bid by Interbrew for South African Breweries.

The brewer sought their return but the news groups claimed that handing them over would breach their duty to protect sources.

Interbrew, which claimed that the documents were "doctored" and that it was a "victim of manipulation", believes they were leaked deliberately to mislead the stock market into believing it was launching a possible bid for SAB.

A High Court judge and three Court of Appeal judges have ruled that the documents should be handed over.

In a statement issued in Brussels, Interbrew said that it had been "pleased" by the "constructive negotiations" the media organisations had been having with the FSA.

Representatives of The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Times and Reuters held a second meeting with the FSA yesterday.

Interbrew had earlier accepted that The Independent's information had been acquired in a different manner from that of the other organisations and indicated it would not be pursuing its action against the newspaper.

"In the current situation and expecting a positive outcome of the dialogue, Interbrew intends to take no further action to enforce its judgement against the five news organisations," the brewer's statement said.

Andrew Gowers, editor of the Financial Times, said: "I welcome the fact that Interbrew has seen sense enough to drop its futile and damaging case against the news organisations.

"I hope the FSA, with whose representatives we remain in contact to resolve this matter, will now also appreciate that important issues concerning the protection of journalistic sources and the functioning of a free press are at stake."