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EDITIONS
Friday, 26 July, 2002, 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK
Interbrew gives up merger leak case
Beck's
Interbrew owns German beer giant Beck's
Belgian brewer Interbrew has dropped legal action aimed at forcing British media organisations to hand over forged takeover documents.

A case against the Times, Guardian and Financial Times newspapers and Reuters news agency had been due to go court on Tuesday.

The Belgian brewing giant wanted journalists to hand over forged documents, which purported to detail a planned bid by Interbrew for rival South African Breweries (SAB).

But Interbrew said it was satisfied that the Financial Services Authority, the market regulator, was competent and willing to bring the case to a conclusion.

Press freedom

The forged documents, which caused a sensation on the stock markets, were sent anonymously to reporters late last year.

Their publication drove Interbrew shares down and SAB stock higher.

Interbrew won a court order this month to get hold of the papers, but the media groups insisted that press freedom was at issue.

"We are still open to constructive discussions with the FSA but we hope they will give serious consideration to the impossible position in which this action places individual reporters," said Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian.

"The vital issue of protection of journalists' sources remains key to this case."

The papers were not wholly false: they originated in scenario planning by the brewing firm, which was considering merger opportunities last year.

But Interbrew said that the documents had been doctored to make it appear that it was close to a SAB deal.

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