Distell this month continues its fight for survival as a merged company while battling to retain the rights to produce and market Martell brandy in South Africa.

This dual battle has been raging since last November, and continues in the Cape High Court on 29 May when Distell asks for leave to appeal the findings in the Martell case. Meanwhile, notice to appeal against the findings of the Competition Tribunal has already been lodged with the Competition Appeal Court in Pretoria.

In November Seagram Africa applied to the Cape High Court against the Distillers' Corporation-Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery merger, while Bulmer South Africa attacked the merger through the Competition Tribunal.

At the same time SFW and Seagram were locked in a courtroom battle over the domestic rights to Martell, which SFW have had since the mid-1960s. Seagram contended that SFW did not meet the sales figures stipulated in the 1997-1998 financial year and as such they were entitled to take back control of the brand.

Justice Jeanette Traverso found in favour of Seagram and ordered SFW to relinquish the Martell brand. Distell will again come before Justice Traverso with an application for leave to appeal the sentence.

Seagram lost the first round of the merger battle when Justice Thabani Jali found for Distillers' and SFW, but it went on to join forces with Bulmer and two trade unions in an action before the Competition Tribunal.

This they won last month when the Tribunal ordered Distillers-SFW to apply to the Competition Commission about merging. Distell decided to challenge the findings and must now wait for the Competition Appeal Court to set a date.