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Shareholders seal fate of biggest brewery

The group's chairman, Robert Jeker, won the backing of most of the shareholders.


Shareholders of the country's largest brewery, Feldschlösschen-Hürlimann, have backed controversial plans by the board of directors to sell off the group's beverages division.

At a stormy annual meeting in Basel, a 74 per cent majority of shareholders present voted in favour of the sale.

Defending the plan, the chairman of the group, Robert Jeker, said a refusal would have thrown the group into chaos and resulted in tumbling share prices.

The board had proposed the sale saying the development of the beverages business was characterised by a continuing decline in beer consumption, eroding profit margins and excessively high production and distribution costs.

A group of small shareholders questioned the credibility of the board at Monday's meeting, arguing that its strategy paper outlining the sale was completely contradictory. There was also criticism of company management.

However, Jeker argued that concentration on the group's real estate business was the best way forward.

"It is mistaken to provoke fears in the sale of the beverages division. If you listen to opponents, you could believe that beer was going to disappear and that employees would be made redundant," he said.

Under the board's plans, Credit Suisse First Boston is to search for an internationally successful firm to buy the division and manage it in the long term.

At Monday's meeting, there were 2,127 shareholders representing 62.73 per cent of the group's share capital.

swissinfo with agencies

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