UPDATE: UK: Young's to merge with Charles Wells

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Wells & Young's is aiming to become the UK's largest supplier of speciality beer, according to the man set to head the newly-created brewer.

Nigel McNally, due to assume the position of managing director at Wells & Young's, told just-drinks today (23 May) that the merger of brewers Young's & Co. and Charles Wells had created a "major force in the UK brewing industry".

Wells & Young's will assume all of the brewing, wholesaling and distribution rights of both brewers, inheriting a stable of brands including Young's Bitter and Bombardier.

Wells & Young's will also gain the Charles Wells' UK licences to Red Stripe, Kirin and Corona. The two companies' combined volumes will stand at around 400,000 barrels with Young's accounting for about a quarter.

"We are the clear number two supplier in speciality beer - and by speciality beer, I mean speciality cask ale alongside speciality premium lager - and we have the ambition to become number one," McNally said. He added that Wells & Young's was targeting top spot "within two to three years".

InBev UK, which owns a stable including Hoegaarden and Leffe, is the country's largest supplier of speciality beer.

McNally said the deal gave the company a "very balanced" portfolio of brands, noting that Wells & Young's would own the fastest-growing standard ale, Young's, alongside Bombardier, the fastest-growing premium ale. Wells & Young's remained "keen" to add to its licensed portfolio and "would look at every opportunity", McNally said.

He added: "(The merger) was a meeting of minds between two businesses with a strong heritage in brewing, it allows Young's to remain vertically integrated and means they will bring their crack brewing team to Bedford. It benefits both parties."

Wells & Young's will be based at the Charles Wells site in Bedford with Young's in talks to sell its Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, south-west London. Job losses would be "kept to a minimum", McNally said, with jobs likely to be created at Bedford.

Charles Wells will hold a 60% stake in the new brewer with Young's holding the remaining 40%.

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