Critics questioned the impact Heineken’s plans would have on competition in the sector if it were to be the eventual victor. Industry regulators have already legislated a break the centuries-old beer tie which in the past has bound pub tenants to selling the beer made by their brewer owners. But concerns have been raised that Heineken could use its scale within the market to undercut prices from competitors.
Paul Waterson, from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said there are “grave concerns” that the deal would create a “monster tie” which could destabilise the public house industry.
Mr Waterson called on the Competition and Markets Authority to scrutinise the potential tie-up, saying the “backwards move” would “be bad news for brewers, whose route to market will almost certainly be controlled by Heineken”.
Under the terms of Heineken’s proposed deal, Patron Capital Advisers, which is acting as go-between, would carry out the takeover and Heineken would then buy around 1,900 pubs from Patron immediately, leaving Patron with about 1,300.
But the looming questions over competition could delay and complicate a Heineken acquisition, offering an advantage to Mr McIntosh’s counter-bid, which has not yet secured funding.
Mr McIntosh will be hoping to draw from a pool of big-name financial backers who helped raise £280m to found Irish property developer Cairn Homes, which he listed on the London Stock Exchange last summer and is now valued at €800m.
Emerald, which together with fellow members in its concert party own a 2.2pc stake in Punch, issued a statement last night confirming it reserves the right to lower its mooted 185p-a-share price to take into account any future dividend Punch may declare or were a third party, namely Heineken and Patron, were to receive a recommendation from the Punch board at a lower price.
The takeover rivals are expected to continue talks behind closed doors, but one source indicated, given the progress Heineken and Patron have already made, an offer could come this side of Christmas.
Under Takeover Panel rules, the two sides have until Jan 11 to make a firm offer, or walk away.