Coopers is in a legal battle to sustain its position as an independent family brewer.

The Australian reported today (28 July) that Coopers and rival Lion Nathan are due to clash in court over the right of Lion to buy shares in its smaller rival.

The beginning of the dispute can be traced back to Lion Nathan's 1993 acquisition of South Australian Brewing, which owned a 19.9% stake in Coopers.

A deal struck between Lion Nathan and Coopers saw Lion relinquish that stake in return for an agreement that it be offered any shares that became available in the future in Coopers if no buyers could be found within Coopers itself, or its allied businesses.
Lion Nathan will argue in court that Coopers was in breach of that agreement over a 2003 buyback of more than 30,000 shares. Lion says it was never offered those shares.

Coopers in turn says it will ask the court to rule that Lion Nathan is "not the same company that existed" when the deal was made, with Japan's Kirin Brewing Company now holding a 46% stake in its larger rival.