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Pernod Clears Final Hurdle In Battle For Irish Distillers

November 24, 1988 GMT

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ Pernod Ricard SA cleared the final hurdle Thursday in its takeover battle for Irish Distillers Group PLC when the Irish government approved the French company’s $442 million bid for the country’s biggest whiskey maker.

Rival bidder Grand Metropolitan PLC of Britain said it would allow its higher offer of $499 million lapse because of the decision.

The ruling was announced early Thursday by Albert Reynolds just before he stepped down as industry and commerce minister in a Cabinet reshuffle.

Dublin-based Irish Distillers said it ″welcomes the minister’s decision and looks forward to a speedy resolution to the bid.″

The Pernod offer, which came to about $6.98 a share, vs. Grand Met’s $8.14 a share, has been given the green light by the European Community Commission and courts in Dublin.

On Wednesday, the High Court in London refused a request by Grand Met for a judicial review of a British takeover panel ruling in favor of Pernod.

In approving the takeover, Reynolds stipulated that Irish Distillers’ new owners cannot dispose of any of the target’s brands, which include Jameson’s and Paddy whiskeys, without ministerial approval and that nothing should be done to distort the Irish spirits market.

Pernod controls 53.6 percent of Irish Distillers’ shares. Grand Met claims control of 30.06 percent, but Reynolds also ruled that the British food and drinks giant must reduce its holding to no more than 30 percent of Irish Distillers.

Grand Met spokesman Tim Halford said the company was ″content″ to hold onto its minority stake in Irish Distillers because ″we believe that Irish whiskey has a lot of potential as a world product if marketed properly.″

″We have close links with Pernod around the world and a good working relationship with them,″ Halford said, adding that ″we’ll have to see what develops over the next few weeks and months.″