Authorities in the UK have arrested seven people suspected of links to a large insider trading ring, which a report has said may involve shares in Scottish & Newcastle.

The arrests were made last week following a series of raids by officers of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

"It is believed that the city professionals passed inside information to traders (either directly or via middlemen) who traded based on this information and have made significant profits as a result," said the FSA, which has seized documents and computers.

The investigation began in late 2007 and the Financial Times newspaper reported today (29 March) that shares in the brewer Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) are part of the probe.

S&N agreed to sell up to Carlsberg and Heineken for GBP7.8bn (US$11.6bn) in January 2008, following protracted takeover talks and an initial bid price in October 2007 of around GBP6.8bn.

There was no suggestion that the brewers' themselves were involved.

An FSA spokesperson declined to comment "for legal reasons" to just-drinks today on which companies' shares are part of its joint investigation with SOCA.

The agency said that two of those arrested last week were senior professionals at leading financial institutions in London.   

A spokesperson for Heineken told just-drinks today that it has not been contacted by the FSA, in relation to the inquiry. The brewer emphasised that the investigation involves individuals in financial institutions.