UB is expected to retain SWC's brands such as Royal Challenge, Director's Special, Haywards and White Mischief.

Boby Kurian

Bangalore, May 30

SPIRITS companies Radico Khaitan, Mason & Summers and BDA are the likely suitors for a part of Shaw Wallace & Co's (SWC) liquor business, which the new management of the UB Group is slated to divest once it assumes control in July this year.

ICICI Bank, which has agreed to debt-finance UB's Rs 1,300-crore takeover of SWC, has already opened negotiations with suitors for some of the brands that are bound to be put on the block. UB and ICICI Bank are looking at a deal size of Rs 150 crore -Rs 200 crore even though the former is yet to decide on the Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) brands that are to be axed, informed sources said. All the three potential suitors refused to comment on early negotiations.

The UB Group is scheduled to achieve financial closure of the SWC deal by June 30, and then expected to proceed with a restructuring that will see the sale of a clutch of brands. Sources said the likelihood of one company mopping up all the brands put on the block was not bright, and even the seller would prefer multiple transactions to maximise the value of the assets.

SWC's liquor business reported annual depletions of nearly 16 million cases in 2004-05. UB is expected to retain SWC's frontline whiskies such as Royal Challenge, Director's Special, Antiquity, Haywards and the white spirits brand, White Mischief.

SWC's other prominent brands include John Exshaw Brandy, Golconda Brandy, Moghul Monarch Whisky, Old Tavern Whisky India's Pride Rum and Old Adventurer Rum.

Radico Khaitan Ltd has been on inorganic growth by picking up small to mid-sized brands in the recent past. Mason & Summers, promoted by Mr Ramesh Vangal, has been on the lookout for acquisitions to boost its market presence, which at the moment is restricted to fledgling brands such as Wild Horse Whisky and Glenn Drummond Single Malt.

The Kishore Chhabria-managed BDA Ltd, which owns the popular Officers' Choice Whisky, is willing to effect brand acquisitions to expand its portfolio beyond one brand.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 31, 2005)
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