The Distell, Seagram Africa and Bulmer SA court intrigue continues, more than 10 months after their legal wrangles started on two fronts.

Seagram and Bulmer are both contesting the merger between Distillers' Corporation and Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery (SFW), to form Distell.

The two international companies' objections to the merger have now reached the Competition Appeal Court, where three judges are deliberating the arguments.

This follows a South African Tribunal's findings earlier this year, which ordered Distell to register its merger with the Competition Commission. The Commission had last year informed Distillers and SFW that this was not necessary.

Distell is now appealing against the Tribunal's findings, the first Appeal Court hearing of this nature to be held in the Cape.

Distell maintains that KWV, Rembrandt and South African Breweries, each of which had a 30% share in both Distillers' and SFW, are still the majority shareholders of the new entity and therefore it does not qualify as a merger. Their protagonists disagree.

The judges have so far reserved judgement and the parties have been left to await their findings in a war that seems set to drag on.

Meanwhile, South Africa's Chief Justice, has granted Distell leave to appeal against a ruling by the Deputy Judge President of the Cape, Justice Jeanette Traverso, in its case against Seagram over the rights to continue producing and marketing Martel Brandy in South Africa. (SFW has held the contract for Martel since the mid 1960s.)

Earlier this year Justice Traverso had refused to grant Distell leave to appeal, which resulted in the company seeking relief at a higher level. Distell and Seagram's legal teams are again gearing themselves for battle once a date has been set.

Seagram Africa claimed that Distell had not met agreed sales figures in the 1997-1998 financial year, while Distell countered that saying the agreed figure was lower and that the figures had been met.