Interbrew, the Belgian brewer, is considering defying the UK trade secretary and selling its Whitbread beer arm in an effort to keep its Bass Brewers operations, it was reported today in The Guardian.

It was suggested that, with Whitbread sold, Interbrew#;s market share would be suitably diminished. The company would then be in a stronger position with European authorities to challenge Byers#;s decision ordering Interbrew to sell Bass.

The Guardian reported that sources close to the company stressed this was only one option open to Interbrew. However, it said, Interbrew is determined to hang on to at least part of its Bass acquisition.

An Interbrew spokesman was unavailable to comment.