February 9, 2017 / 10:32 AM / 8 months ago

India's United Breweries asks Vijay Mallya to step down from board

Feb 9 (Reuters) - United Breweries, India’s top brewer and largely owned by global giant Heineken NV, has asked liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya, its non-executive chairman, to step down from the board.

Mallya, mired in a growing series of legal battles following the collapse of his Kingfisher airline, was last month charged with conspiracy and fraud by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation.

The head of the Force India Formula One team and a former owner of an Indian Premier League cricket team, one-time billionaire Mallya moved to Britain in March 2016 after being pursued in courts by banks seeking to recover about $1.4 billion the Indian authorities claim is owed by his Kingfisher airline.

The move by the board of United Breweries, which makes and sells Kingfisher beer in India, follows a regulatory order and a meeting of its independent directors, the company said in a filing with the stock exchanges late on Wednesday. (bit.ly/2kVIy1L)

India’s capital markets regulator has barred Mallya from participating in the country’s securities market for having allegedly diverted funds from whiskey maker United Spirits .

Mallya, along with some of his other ventures, held a roughly 30 percent stake in United Breweries as of the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2016, according to securities data.

Heineken owns about 43 percent in the brewer. It initially acquired 37.5 percent in 2008 through its takeover of Scottish & Newcastle, and later raised its holding.

Last year, sources told Reuters that Heineken was likely to ask Mallya to step down from the board.

Heineken and a spokesman for Mallya were not immediately reachable for a comment. (Reporting by Tanvi Mehta in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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