Could UB Group hand Heineken majority control of United Breweries?

Could UB Group hand Heineken majority control of United Breweries?

Neither Heineken nor the UB Group have been drawn on speculation suggesting that the Dutch brewer is poised to raise its stake in UB's United Breweries unit.

Reports out of India earlier today (28 March) have claimed that chairman Vijay Mallya is looking to sell up to 13% of United Breweries. Unnamed sources have been cited as claiming Mallya, who owns 23% of United Breweries, is close to offloading the stake to Heineken, which already holds 37.5% of the beer unit.

UB Group is struggling with its Kingfisher Airlines unit, which is poised to lose its licence to operate. The United Spirits division of UB has been suggested as a white knight for the conglomerate, although UB was forced last month to state that “United Spirits has not provided any corporate guarantee on behalf of Kingfisher Airlines”.

When contacted by just-drinks today, a spokesperson for UB Group said: “We would not like to comment on speculation. Due to the problems with the airline business, almost every day some news or the other is doing the rounds in the industry, from Vijay Mallya selling his personal assets to selling stake in UBL to bail out the airlines business. We cannot comment on all these rumours."

A spokesperson for Heineken also declined to comment on the reports.

With Heineken holding 37.5% and Mallya owning 23% of United Breweries, United Spirits and UB Holdings jointly hold 14.71%. The remaining 24.79% is publicly-owned.