Scottish & Newcastle has raised concerns about the possibility that plans to merge Russia's Baltika brewery with three other brewers may not receive investor approval.

Balitka, owned by the Scottish & Newcastle/Carlsberg joint venture Baltic Beverage Holdings, has been trying to merge its Russian breweries to strengthen the operation in the face of increasing international competition in the country.

BBH wants to merge the breweries Pikra, Vena and Yarpivo into Baltika by the end of this year. However, the company has been running into opposition since it announced its intent last year.

A range of minority shareholders have voiced concerns that Baltika would be saddled with debt for buying BBH's stakes in the other breweries. At the same time, minority shareholders in the other breweries have been worried that they would not receive satisfactory payments for their stakes.

Now, according to a report in today's (16 February) Financial Times, S&N is concerned that investor apathy may scupper its latest attempts at the merger.

According to the report, ballot papers have been sent to voters but S&N is worried that some of the 2,500 voters had not received them.

John Nicolson, chairman of S&N's international beer division, was also quoted saying that he was concerned that some shareholders may not bother to vote. "We are worried about apathy," the FT quoted him saying.

Voting was complicated by the fact that voters had to sign 14 different papers, Nicolson added.

If this merger attempt fails, the FT said S&N would look at an alternative merger structure.