The UK Takeover Panel has set a deadline for Carlsberg and Heineken's pursuit of Scottish & Newcastle.

The independent body has ruled today (17 December) that the two European brewers have until midday on 21 January to make a firm offer for S&N. Carlsberg and Heineken have seen two proposed offers for the UK-based company dismissed, each on the same days that they were issued.

"Each of the parties has accepted this ruling," the Takeover Panel said.

"We welcome the introduction of a timetable," said Carlsberg and Heineken. "It will focus all parties on the merits of our proposal and consequences of S&N shareholders missing out on a value creating transaction.

"We urge S&N to open talks with us as soon as possible."

S&N added: "It is in the interests of the company and its shareholders that this long period of uncertainty is brought to an end."

The two brewer's latest offer, of GBP7.50 per share, was described by S&N as "wholly inadequate", who has applied to an arbitral tribunal in Sweden over its claims for total ownership of Baltic Beverages Holding - its Eastern European joint venture with Carlsberg.

The tribunal, which will consider whether Carlsberg has breached a shareholder agreement in looking to buy S&N, is set to issue a ruling in June.