Far reaching consequences could result from South Africa's Competition Tribunal findings that the merger between Distillers' Corporation and Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery was a notifiable transaction.

The Tribunal presented its findings in Pretoria late yesterday and in its summary it found that although there were three major shareholders, there was no conclusive evidence that they operated together in directly controlling the direction of SFW and Distillers.

The report stated: "On the facts before us we find there is no evidence to suggest the respondents (Distillers and SFW) form part of a single economic entity. Nor is there evidence that the shareholders direct the activities of either of the respondents let alone directing that they act in concert. On the contrary there is at least prima facie evidence that the two companies operated autonomously and were held out as competitors to their shareholders."

The newly merged Distell group will now have to go back to the Competition Commission within 10 working days to make a submission about the merger between its former entities.

Distell Corporate Affairs Director, Andre Steyn, said today that the group's legal team would study the findings in full before a decision was made on the best course of action

To add to the confusion of this whole debacle, the competition authorities have also made known that they will be looking at the entire South African alcoholic beverage industry to see where monopolistic practices were evident. And this could take more than a year to complete.