UPDATE INDIA: UB still hunting for French footing
United Breweries will make up for losing out on Taittinger by snapping up one of the French group's subsidiaries, according to the Indian company's chairman.
UB is set to buy Bouvet-Ladubay from Taittinger for US$15m, Dr. Vijay Mallya said yesterday (15 June). "We are looking to acquire this company over the next few weeks," he told reporters. "It will enable United Breweries to get into high quality premium wine, which we will import and sell in (the) Indian market.
"It will also give us access to wine technology of the highest order," Mallya added.
With the exception of a distillery in Nepal, the move would mark UB's first foray outside of its domestic borders, although Mallya also said that the group is pondering moves in Russia, China and South Africa.
"We are already in advanced talks with a significant group in Russia to import their products into India and they will sell our products in Russia," he said. "We are in the preliminary stages of establishing our presence in China."
Earlier this month, UB ducked out of the race for Taittinger, leaving the French bank Crédit Agricole du Nord Est free to acquire the Champagne house for around EUR660m (US$841m).
"There is a sentiment that champagne assets should remain in France," Mallya noted, "So we peacefully bowed out of the process. I was not prepared to get into a bidding war because that would have diluted the shareholder value for United Breweries. That was not something I was prepared to do."
When contacted by just-drinks today, Patrice Monmousseau, Bouvet's director general, played down United's claims. "Our owner (Starwood) is in negotiations with UB Group," he said, "but it is also in negotiations with other companies as well - they (UB Group) are not alone."
Monmousseau would not be drawn on who else was in the running to buy the company, but said that "two major companies" were in negotiations with Starwood. "We have been waiting for almost a month to hear," he added.
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