ARNAULT MAKING NEW PLANS TO MERGE MOET, GRAND MET

PARIS — Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, is preparing a new proposal regarding the combining of Moet Hennessy’s drinks business with those of Grand Metropolitan and Guinness, two U.K. drinks and food groups that announced a merger plan last May.
According to a spokeswoman, Arnault’s plan could come next month. It would be a modification of the proposal Arnault sent the two British firms earlier this summer where he suggested that Grand Met, Guinness and Moet Hennessy combine their drinks businesses and form a publicly traded company in which LVMH would hold a 35 percent stake. That proposal was flatly rejected by Grand Met and Guinness.
The LVMH spokeswoman said that in his new proposal, Arnault is prepared to accept less than a 35 percent share in the merged group, but he will not back down on his idea of merging the three companies’ drinks businesses.
Also next month, Grand Met and Guinness are expecting a decision to be handed down by the European Commission regarding their merger plan. Sources said the EC might oppose the deal because it would give the merged companies a dominant position in the international whisky business.
Arnault has been vehemently opposed to the Grand Met-Guinness merger since it was announced. As previously reported, Arnault felt the deal would not efficiently exploit synergies between the two companies.

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