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Whyte & Mackay profits up as Suntory joins race

PRE-tax profit at Whyte & Mackay soared 27.4% to £33.9 million last year, it has emerged, as Japan's Suntory was reported to have begun preliminary talks about buying the owner of Isle of Jura distillery.

Revenues at the Glasgow-headquartered spirits business rose 15.9% year-on-year to £263m, according to accounts for the year ended March 31.

Whyte & Mackay has been put on the market following the effective takeover of Indian parent United Spirits by the world's largest spirits company Diageo, owner of Johnnie Walker. Competition authorities are concerned there is too great an overlap in the UK between Diageo's Bell's brand and Whyte & Mackay's eponymous blend and its supermarket own-brand interests.

In the 2013 financial year Whyte & Mackay booked £1.9m in charges from exceptional items, down from £2.9m in 2012.

These included a £1.4m charge largely relating to registering its Whyte & Macaky Americas subsidiary and £1.4m in onerous lease provisions as the use of more space led to a drop in rates relief. Offsetting this was an £843,000 gain as the company's pension scheme cut death-in-service spouses pensions.

The deficit on its defined benefit pension scheme widened from £6.4m to £9.3m during the year.

A dividend was not paid so post-tax profit of £32.3m was added to reserves.

Diageo has proposed selling the Whyte & Mackay brand, its private label businessand distilleries in Invergordon, Jura and Fettercairn. Potential buyers include Bowmore distillery owner Suntory and former owner Vivian Imerman.

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