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Britain's Two Biggest Merger Bids Launched

December 03, 1985|From Reuters

LONDON — Two of Britain's biggest-ever takeover bids, together valued at nearly $5 billion, were launched Monday on the London Stock Market.

The food retailer Argyll made a long-awaited move to capture the Distillers whiskey group for the equivalent of $2.79 billion, and Imperial Group unveiled the terms of a $1.98-billion friendly merger with United Biscuits.

Distillers is Scotland's largest company, whose brand names include Johnnie Walker and White Horse Scotch whiskeys.

Argyll's offer of $2.79 billion for Distillers makes it the largest takeover assault in the history of the London exchange and one that market analysts said was bound to be bitter.

Capitalized at $1 Billion

Argyll is capitalized at about $1 billion, less than half the value of its prey, and Distillers immediately rejected the bid as "totally inadequate."

The planned $1.98-billion merger of United Biscuits and Imperial, two of Britain's largest consumer product companies, will result in a food, drinks and tobacco conglomerate with annual earnings of about $487 million and 100,000 employees.

Argyll is led by James Gulliver, the son of a small town Scottish grocer and now millionaire chairman of the group.

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