Shareholders in Coopers Brewery have voted overwhelmingly in favour of removing Lion Nathan's pre-emptive share purchase rights.

The move has dealt Lion's hopes of buying the family-controlled brewer a potentially fatal blow.

At the brewer's EGM today (14 December) in Adelaide, 93.42% of shareholders voted to remove the clause, which had allowed Lion to buy shares in Coopers if shareholders or pension fund organisations did not buy them.

Lion, which last month upped its bid for Coopers from A$260 (US$196.61) per share to A$310, will now continue its pursuit of the company through legal action. The Trans-Tasman beer and wine group said yesterday that it has four legal challenges on the go that could keep its bid afloat. Earlier this week, the Australian Federal Court dismissed Lion's appeal to reverse a buyback run by Coopers in 2003 for A$45.01 a share.

Speaking to Reuters after the meeting, Coopers managing director Tim Cooper said: "We would not have thought there is merit pursuing us in further litigation. The shareholders are very happy for us to be left alone to continue what we do best, which is run as an independent brewery in Australia."

Coopers has 118 shareholders, of which 90% are thought to be family members.

Lion is scheduled to hold its AGM tomorrow in Sydney.