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Heineken’s Punch takeover under watchdog investigation

Heineken’s bid to take over Punch Taverns is being probed by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to decide if the move could be bad for customers and trade competitors.

The £305m deal announced last December would see Heineken acquire 1,900 Punch Taverns pubs across the UK, making it the third largest pubs group in the country, behind Greene King and Enterprise Inns.

In brief statement, the CMA explained, “The CMA has opened an investigation into Heineken’s proposed acquisition of part of the Punch Taverns pubs portfolio.

“The first phase of the investigation is currently scheduled to last until 24 April 2017.

“During this period, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will assess whether the deal could reduce competition and choice for customers.”

It continued, “If it could reduce competition, the CMA would launch an in-depth merger investigation, which lasts up to 24 weeks, unless the merging parties offer undertakings which address any competition concerns identified.

“More details are available on the investigation case page where interested parties and individuals are invited to submit their views by 2 March 2017.”

Heineken said it will be fully cooperating with the CMA.

The news comes as Labour MSP Neil Bibby announced he his Protect Our Pubs campaign and a consultation on his proposed Tied Pubs (Code and Adjudicator) (Scotland) Bill, which will examine the relationship between giant pub-owning companies and their tenants and give customers more choice over the drinks on sale.

The proposed bill would make it fairer for tenants of pubs who have a ‘tied’ arrangement with large owning companies.

It is estimated there are nearly 1,000 tenanted pubs in Scotland.

Opposition in Scotland

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Bibby said, “Scottish pub tenants should have the ability to opt out of the tied arrangements if they wish. Times are tough in the pub sector.

“Scottish licensees that choose to opt out should have the flexibility they need in a crowded and competitive marketplace to react to changes that could affect their business – from new pubs opening in their area to changes in the way people socialise. My proposal would give them that flexibility.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), has voiced his support for the proposal.

He said, “With more and more pubs closing in Scotland each week, it’s crucial the government takes action to protect tenants who are the most vulnerable operators in our trade.

“The SLTA and many others from within the brewing industry have been campaigning for the government to legislate progressively on this issue for a number of years, and we hope that Neil’s bill will add further weight to our collective position on the matter.”

Read more about the proposed Heineken bid to take over Punch Taverns here.

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