Scottish & Newcastle will "vigorously defend" any accusations of illegal and unethical behaviour in its Russian holdings. The brewer, speaking to just-drinks today (25 July), dismissed claims that it was acting illegally in attempting to integrate the five breweries it owns through it 50-50 joint venture with Carlsberg, Baltic Beverages Holdings.

Minority shareholders in the five breweries it has majority interests in, the largest of which is Baltika, have filed legal and regulatory complaints against the company, claiming that attempts to integrate the five will result in Baltika overpaying for the other four breweries. This overpaying will benefit S&N and Carlsberg, the shareholders say.

The first proposal put to minority shareholders two weeks ago was for Baltika to buy Pikra in the country. The vote, in which majority shareholders were not allowed to take part in by law, resulted in 49% of minority shareholders voting in favour, with 32% voting against it and 29% not taking part in the vote. The proposal was tabled during Russia's main holiday period.

"We've learnt that we do need to spend more time with minority shareholders in the future," S&N spokeswoman Linda Bain told just-drinks. "We will, however, vigorously defend any accusations of illegal or unethical practise.

"We took legal counsel on the proposal throughout the move," Bain added.

"S&N remains committed to the integration process. We will look at alternatives over the course of the next few months," Bain said.

Minority shareholders appear to be aggrieved at the valuations proposed for the buy-outs. Whereas Baltika shareholders want the lowest possible valuations, shareholders in the other four brewers want the highest.