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Call for investigation into Marston's and Carlsberg brewing merger

By John Corser | Wolverhampton | Business | Published:

A merger of the brewing arms of Marston's and Carlsberg will reduce the choice of beers available to pubgoers, The Campaign for Real Ale has warned.

Camra fears a reduction in the beers produced by the new brewing company which will include the Park Brewery - home of Banks's beers

Camra is calling for the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate the creation of a joint venture beer company between Wolverhampton-based Marston's and the UK operation of the Danish brewing giant.

Camra believres the proposed merger which could see a reduction in the number of beers that are brewed.

The appeal to CMA chief executive Dr Andrea Coscelli follows a string of correspondence about the proposed joint venture between Carlsberg and Marston’s that CAMRA believes could have significant anti-competitive effects on the UK beer and pub market.

The campaign is asking the CMA to prove its credentials in standing up for consumers and commit to triggering what is known as the ‘Article 9’ referral procedure – meaning that the UK competition body could lead an investigation instead of the EU Commission, because the joint venture will mainly impact the UK beer and pub market.

Camra’s calculations show that the UK beer and pub market is becoming less and less competitive with every new merger or acquisition of a smaller brewer by a global brand. Global brewers currently have a 25.25 per cent share of UK pub companies, which by Camra’s calculations will rise to nearly 32 per cent if the proposed joint venture is allowed to proceed without intervention.

CAMRA chief executive Tom Stainer said: “Since the day that it was announced, Camra has raised serious concerns about the proposed Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company and choice for beer drinkers, pubgoers – and over the future of British beers, brands and breweries.

“We wrote to the CMA back in June and asked them to investigate. We were surprised to be told that it wasn’t a matter for them, and that we should talk to the EU Commission instead. We don’t understand why the CMA does not seem interested in investigating something that will clearly have an impact on choice of beer on the bar in pubs.

“The Competition and Markets Authority exists to promote competition for the benefit of consumers – therefore it is disappointing that they are seemingly disinterested in investigating something that will have potentially anti-competitive effects on the UK beer and pub market.

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“It is vital that the CMA steps up the plate, thoroughly investigates the proposed joint venture between Marston’s and Carlsberg, and helps to ensure there is fair competition, access to market for brewers, and decent consumer choice when it comes to beer and pubs up and down the country.”

The new brewing company is due to start operation in September with its head office in Wolverhampton.

Richard Westwood, the managing director of Marston’s Beer Company who will be chief operating officer, has said he does not see any risk to any of its breweries from the deal.

He said Marston’s had a track record of buying breweries and keeping them open and continuing to brew beers at their brewery of origin with a high level of authenticity and head brewers being by and large kept in place.

There are also plans to launch a new beer, brewed at the Victorian Park Brewery in Wolverhampton, for the start of Carlsberg Marston’s Brewing Company.

John Corser

By John Corser
Business Reporter

Express & Star Business Editor at head office, Wolverhampton. Welcomes all news of companies and business organisations.

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