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SLOVENIA: Interbrew in battle for Union

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The Belgian brewing group, Interbrew, said yesterday that it would counter a bid from Slovenia's leading brewer, Pivorvarna Lasko, for the country's second largest beer company, Pivovarna Union.

Earlier on Wednesday, Lasko launched an audacious takeover bid for Union in which Interbrew already owns a 41% stake. However, an earlier attempt by Lasko to outbid Interbrew for Union had foundered following the intervention of Slovenian regulatory authorities. Interbrew said it expected the country's anti-monopoly regulators to step in to block a Lasko takeover. Lasko has around 50% of the market, while Union has a 40% share.
 
Interbrew said it planned to launch a new tender offer for all remaining Union shares. The company stated recently that expansion in south-eastern European markets was one of its strategic priorities.

Lasko took an advertisement in a Slovenian daily newspaper stating that it had acquired an additional 21.94% of Union on Tuesday thereby increasing its participation in the company to 46.18%. Analysts are predicting a bidding war to develop between the two companies and Union shares were 5.2% higher at the end of the day. But trading in Union was suspended following the announcement of Interbrew's counter-bid.

Trading resumed this morning and shares were up 4.6% on yesterday's closing price.


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