Guinness Wins Takeover Battle for Distillers : Giant Defeats Argyll With $4.1-Million Bid

Associated Press

The Guinness brewing giant said Friday it has won a $4.1-billion, 4 1/2-month takeover battle against the Argyll supermarket chain to control Britain’s largest Scotch whisky and gin company, Distillers Co.

London-based Guinness PLC defeated Argyll Foods PLC by securing 50.74% of the shares in Distillers, a Scottish company which wanted the merger with Guinness. Argyll was left with 14.4%.

The final Guinness bid was worth 2.7 billion pounds, or $4.1 billion, said Guinness spokesman Alan Stewart, making it one of the two largest takeovers in Britain.

The sum is matched by Hanson Trust PLC’s recent $4.1-billion victory over United Biscuits (Holdings) in acquiring Imperial Group, a tobacco company.


The combined annual sales of the new Guinness-Distillers company will be in excess of 3 billion pounds, or $4.5 billion, making it one of Britain’s top 10 companies, Stewart said. It will have 35,000 employees and be headquartered in Edinburgh, he said.

Distillers sells Dewar’s whisky, which it says is No. 1 in the United States, as well as Johnnie Walker, Haig, and Black and White whiskies and Gordon’s gin. Guinness sells Bell’s Scotch whisky and Kaliber lager and its well-known black beer known as stout in 140 countries.

“There is now a British-owned international consumer brands company able to compete on even terms with the foreign-owned giants,” Guinness Chief Executive Ernest Saunders said after the takeover.

He added, “We are determined to revitalize the fortunes of the Scotch whisky industry and establish our brands in preeminent positions throughout the world.”


James Gulliver, Argyll chairman, said: “We are understandably very disappointed that we will not now have the responsibility for the long-term development of this great Scottish company.”

The Guinness-Argyll fight was only one of a spate of takeover bids and battles in this country. In the first three months of this year, the value of corporate takeover bids amounted to over 20 billion pounds, or $30.4 billion, compared with 6.4 billion pounds, or just under $4.5 billion, for the whole of 1985.

Jennifer Guinness, a member of the brewing and banking family, was kidnaped from her cliff-top mansion outside Dublin on April 8. She was rescued unharmed this week and six people are being held in her abduction.