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INDIA/UK: Whyte & Mackay silent on United Spirits stake sale report

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Whyte & Mackay has declined to comment on reports claiming that its owner, United Spirits, is considering selling off up to 49% of its stake in the Scotch whisky company.

Reports out of India today (10 February) have claimed that United Spirits, which acquired Whyte & Mackay in May 2007 for US$1.18bn, is open to the idea of divesting the stake to help pay off some of its sizeable debt.

United Spirits, part of the UB Group owned by Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya, is leveraged nearly three times and has a debt of INR71bn (US$1.46bn), according to the Indian press.

Citing a United Spirits spokesperson, Business Standard said today that divestment of 49% of Whyte & Mackay was "always part of United Spirits' deleveraging plan".

When contacted by just-drinks, however, a spokesperson for Whyte & Mackay would not comment further. "It is business as usual at Whyte & Mackay," the spokesperson said.

"It is not our policy to comment on speculation, but even if United Spirits did sell a stake, it would still be business as usual for us."

The UB Group is currently in talks with Diageo, allegedly in the hope that it can sell up to 15% of its shares to the UK-based company. Such a move would give Diageo use of UB's distribution footprint in India, while helping UB to reduce its debt. The Indian company could expect between INR12bn and INR15bn from such a divestment, according to reports.


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