The Dutch brewing group, Heineken, is taking legal action to block the US$600m acquisition by the Brazilian drinks group, Ambev, of a 36% stake in the Argentine brewer, Quilmes Industrial SA (Quinsa).

Heineken owns a 15% stake and Quinsa an 85% stake in Quilmes International Bermuda (QIB) which groups the Quilmes operations. Heineken had said in February that it was interested in raising its stake in QIB.

The company has requested that the arbitration tribunal of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris orders Quinsa and its majority shareholder Beverages Associates Corp (BAC) "to refrain from consummating the transactions with Ambev on an interim and permanent basis."
"Heineken seeks to enforce agreements made in the shareholders agreement with Quinsa which afford Heineken a first right of refusal to acquire the joint venture QIB," Heineken said in a statement.

Heineken contends that its rights as a minority shareholder in the Quilmes breweries had not been respected. "Our position is that our rights were not respected on the issue of preference to buy," said Heineken spokeswoman Manel Vrijenhoek. Heineken said that it had the right to match any offer for a stake in Quinsa to safeguard its QIB interests and that it would have made a counter bid to Ambev's cash and asset offer.