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Last Updated: Friday, 27 April 2007, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Brewer S&N climbs on bid rumours
Bottles of S&N's Newcastle Brown Ale
S&N is the largest UK-owned brewer
Shares in the UK's biggest brewer Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) have jumped more than 5% on rumours it could be a bid target for Danish rival Carlsberg.

S&N has long been seen as a possible takeover target, but speculation intensified after Carlsberg announced plans to reform its share structure.

Analysts say the restructuring will give Carlsberg more scope to take part in merger or takeover activity.

S&N's brands include Kronenbourg 1664, Foster's and Newcastle Brown Ale.

In Friday trading on the London stock market, S&N's shares ended up 39.5 pence, or 6.75% to 625p.

Fresh options

Carlsberg said that its controlling shareholder, the Carlsberg Foundation, had asked permission to cut its obligation to always hold at least 51% of the company's share capital.

This is a highly significant move which, in our view, is primarily designed to allow Carlsberg to merge with or bid for Scottish and Newcastle in due course

Under the proposals, it wants to change this so that in future it holds at least 51% of the votes and more than 25% of the share capital.

This would allow Carlsberg to raise more capital.

However, in a statement, the chairman of the both the Foundation and Carlsberg, Povl Krogsgaard-Larsen, and Carlsberg chief executive Nils Andersen said there were "no plans" to raise new capital.

But the statement added: "The company wishes to have this option should new demands in the market or interesting acquisition possibilities arise in the future."

Analysts interpreted the reforms as a sign that the company was eyeing a move for S&N.

"This is a highly significant move which, in our view, is primarily designed to allow Carlsberg to merge with or bid for Scottish & Newcastle in due course," said London-based broker Cazenove.

Bid rumours have surrounded S&N for some months. In March, its shares rose strongly on talk that it could be a bid target for Dutch brewer Heineken.

Earlier in April, SABMiller downplayed rumours linking it as a possible suitor. However, on Monday the Financial Times reported that Diageo and SABMiller have held talks with a view to breaking up S&N.

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