Rosie Davenport
The drinks industry is bracing itself for another round of consolidation as a result of Scottish & Newcastle's decision to exit pub retailing and buy Bulmers for £278m.
The brewer, which is seeking a buyer for its £2.3bn pub estate, is already rumoured to be looking for new acquisitions beyond the cider maker. S&N's shopping spree went into overdrive this week as it announced intentions to take full control of SCC, the Portuguese brewer and distributor, in which it currently has a 49% stake.
Carlsberg could be another target on the wish list of incoming chief executive Tony Froggart as he strives to further strengthen the brand portfolio.
Analysts have also predicted that bids for Spain's Mahou brewer ­ home of San Miguel ­ and Peroni in Italy could be on the cards. S&N has shown an interest in both companies since buying Kronenbourg.
However, S&N may not be allowed to enjoy pondering ways to grow outside pub retailing for too long ­ it has been named as a potential acquisition target. "S&N is very vulnerable now that it is unencumbered by its pubs," said one analyst. He added that US brewing giant Anheuser Busch was a possible contender as well as South Africa's SABMiller.
Another analyst said: "A number of large, international brewers have looked at S&N but have been put off by the pub side. I think it's now a question of how safe is S&N?"
Security was also front of mind at Bulmers' head office where, despite supporting the deal as a means to sustaining the company's future, staff are braced for redundancies.
Bulmers' PR manager, George Thomas, said: "We failed in our bid to remain an independent company.
"Some support jobs will go as functions are integrated into the S&N business, but we hope that the Bulmers' name will continue to be associated with brands once they are part of the Scottish & Newcastle organisation."
The deal, which City commentators describe as being a "full price", includes £91m of debt as well as control of on-trade distribution arm the Beer Seller, worth £30m.
At 310p per share, analysts believe it is unlikely rivals, including Interbrew, will mount a counter bid.

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