The privatisation battle for Knjaz Milos is approaching its conclusion. Both Danone and its main competitor, UK-based fund FPP Balkan, have claimed victory in the fight for the Serbian drinks firm over the weekend.

The two rivals claimed control 48 hours before today's deadline for small shareholders to submit sell orders to brokers. The Serbian Government has spent the last 25 months trying to privatise the domestic bottled water market leader.

The joint venture between Danone and Serbian basketball hero Vlade Divac, Apurna, was the first to say it had won. "We have a majority stake ... There was a confusion between us and small shareholders because no one told them clearly that they will get more money from us than competitors ... through a social programme," Divac's wife Snezana told a news conference.

FPP Balkan, which already holds a 25% share of Knjaz, was less explicit in saying it was the one with a controlling stake and said it wanted to wait until today for the official results."FPP knows exactly how many shares are already on its account, so it is physically impossible for anyone else to have gathered such a block of shares," FPP's representative in Belgrade Srdjan Muskatirovic said.

"They only confuse the public instead of conceding defeat."

There were three approved and valid takeover bids - by Apurna, FPP and Slovenian brewer Pivovarna Lasko - for Knjaz Milos.