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Mumbai: Dutch beer maker Heineken has bought additional shares of United Breweries Ltd from the open market to raise its total stake in the Indian company to 43% amid rumours that Heineken will ask Mallya to step down from the board.

On Wednesday, Heineken confirmed that it has acquired 21.15 lakh shares of United Breweries representing 0.8% stake.

Heineken is the largest share holder in United Breweries, India’s largest brewer.

Mallya, who owes banks more than $1 billion, and his associate companies hold 32.45% stake in United Breweries.

“Heineken can confirm that it has acquired in total 21.15 lakh United Breweries shares. We acquired 6 lakh United Breweries shares from Yes Bank Ltd for 847 per share, 8.52 lakh United Breweries shares from ECL Finance Ltd for 845 per share and an additional 6.62 lakh shares from ECL Finance for 847 per, respectively," Heineken spokesperson said.

“This represents 0.8% of United Breweries’ share capital. The transaction increases Heineken’s stake in United Breweries from 42.2% to 43%," the spokesperson said.

However, the spokesperson clarified that this purchase does not result in any changes to the United Breweries governance structure.

On 17 March, Reuters had reported that Heineken is likely to ask Mallya to step down from the board of United Breweries.

Mallya, who was ranked the 45th-richest Indian with a net worth of $1 billion by Forbes in March 2012, left for London on 2 March, days before a group of 17 banks to whom Mallya owes around 9,000 crore approached the Supreme Court to bar him from leaving the country.

Mallya is currently chairman of United Breweries.

Citing people familiar with the development, Reuters reported that such a move is likely to be a prelude to the Dutch drinks firm raising its stake in the maker of Kingfisher beer to above 50%, betting on a small but fast-growing beer market.

Heineken acquired a 37.5% stake in United Breweries in 2008 through its takeover of Scottish & Newcastle and has since increased its holding to 42.4%.

“Heineken continues to be positive about the prospects of the business in India. India has highly favourable demographics with strong economic fundamentals so the market remains an exciting opportunity for continued growth," the Heineken spokesperson said.

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