Diageo Plc. (LON:DGE) is involved in yet another attempt to increase its stake in Bangalore-based United Spirits Limited, or USL, (BOM:532432), a company that it first bought into in 2012, news reports said Tuesday.
The London-based spirits company launched an open offer to acquire 26 percent ownership of USL for $1.9 billion, to add to the 29 percent stake it already owns in the company, which is run by flamboyant Indian businessman Vijay Mallya, who started Kingfisher Airlines, a full-service airline that was launched in 2005 and was grounded in 2012 for financial reasons. The deal values USL at about $440 billion, or at 3,030 rupees a share ($50.29 a share), according to Bloomberg estimates, and the current offer is 18 percent higher than USL’s closing price on April 11.
In February, Diageo picked a 2.4 percent stake in the Indian liquor company for 8.66 billion rupees ($143 million) to raise its stake to 28.8 per cent. In November 2012, the British company had announced plans to acquire a 53 percent stake in USL, but failed to successfully complete the transaction because of poor response from investors. At the time, the company bought a less than 0.5 percent stake in the Indian company, The Economic Times reported.
In November 2007, USL had bought Scottish whiskey maker Whyte & Mackay for $995 million, most of which Diageo now plans to sell to allay concerns at UK’s Office of Fair Trading, which believes the acquisition might lead to higher prices for blended whiskey, Bloomberg reported.
The latest open offer is the second attempt by Diageo to gain a larger stake in USL via an open-market purchase and will be launched in June, according to Reuters.
The entire Diageo-USL deal is facing legal scrutiny in India and creditors of United Breweries, the conglomerate headed by Mallya with interests also in aviation, sports and engineering, have filed a petition, which led to a local court to order an annulment of the sale. The dispute is now being heard in India's Supreme Court, which, in February, ruled that a status quo should be maintained in the matter until further hearings.
Diageo's shares had soared 2.81 percent at close on Monday on the London Stock Exchange, while USL's stock was up 11.45 percent during trading on the BSE Sensex in mid-morning trade Tuesday.