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INDIA/UK: United Spirits could sell Whyte & Mackay stake

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United Spirits has said that selling a stake in Whyte & Mackay is one of several ways it might seek to raise finance, but no decision has been taken.

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After several weeks of speculation about ways United Spirits might seek to combat its high debt load, the Vijay Mallya-controlled drinks maker has said that it is assessing its options.

Commenting on a report that the group is set to sell a 49% stake in its Whyte & Mackay Scotch whisky business, United Spirits told the Mumbai stock exchange today (28 February) that its board of directors has not discussed the matter. However, it conceded that a deal is possible.

"The company have only expressed that [a] sale of 49% stake in Whyte & Mackay Ltd is one of the several options available to United Spirits to reduce its debt, but no decision has been taken in this regard," said the group. Concern has grown about United Spirits debt alongside the travails of Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines business.

Last week, India's Business Standard newspaper cited United Spirits' CFO, Pathai Murali, as saying the firm faces a "tight rope walk" until it can "monetise" assets. One analyst told just-drinks that Mallya might be forced to yield equity in United Spirits itself. "Diageo would love to have a stake in that business," the analyst said.

At the end of last week, United Spirits was forced to deny that it has provided any corporate guarantee on behalf of Kingfisher Airlines. Both firms are part of Mallya's UB Group.


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