ONE of Scotland's oldest whisky distillers is to change hands in a deal worth more than £400 million.

Glasgow-based Whyte and Mackay's parent company United Spirits Ltd (USL) has said an agreement has been reached to sell the firm to Philippine firm Emperador Inc for £430 million.

Whyte and Mackay employs 500 people around Scotland and has become one of the country's biggest blended-whisky producers after being established by businessmen James Whyte and Charles Mackay in Scotland's largest city in 1844.

As well as its signature whiskies, the company also owns malt whiskies Dalmore, Jura, Tamnavulin and Fetercairn and the liqueur Glayva.

It was bought by USL's flamboyant owner Vijay Mallya seven years ago from its former chief executive Vivian Imerman for £595m in a deal which was supposed help expand the market for the brand in emerging economies such as India.

However, the sale has been brought about because of antitrust laws which came into effect when drinks giant Diageo, owners of Bell's whisky, bought a 54% stake in USL after it began to experience financial troubles.

The Indian company said in a statement released yesterday the sale of Whyte and Mackay was subject to regulatory approvals in India and Britain as well as from the Reserve Bank of India. The central bank's approval is needed, because the sale will result in a significant write-off of loan amounts recoverable by United Spirits from its British subsidiary, the statement added. It did not give details.

Last year, United Spirits asked Rothschild, Rabo Bank and Standard Chartered to manage the sale process.

Mr Mallya, once dubbed the Indian Richard Branson after he moved from producing Kingfisher Beer to opening an airline of the same name, is said to be one of India's richest men.

The tycoon, who remains as the firm's chairman, said: "I am very proud of what Whyte and Mackay had achieved under United Spirits' ownership.

Mr Mallya had been criticised in the past by the spirits industry for trying to sell cheap Indian whisky in Europe, and rowed with the Scottish Whisky Association during his time at the helm.

"Moreover, I am delighted to be able to pass on Whyte and Mackay into the hands of a new owner who is committed to realising the full potential of the business and whose vision for Whyte and Mackay is aligned with that of United Spirits."

Emperador, produces the world's best-selling brandy and distills and distributes alcoholic beverages around the Far East, but does not currently make whisky.

As well as adding an established brand to its portfolio, the company will gain access to Whyte and Mackay's global distribution network, opening up new markets.

Emperador is headed by the Filipino-Chinese billionaire Andrew Tan, who grew up in an apartment in Hong Kong which was shared by other families.

Later, he moved to Manila where he studied accounting at University of the East and now leads the Alliance Global Group Inc, which controls Emperador as well as Real Estate venture Megaworld and McDonald's franchise manager Golden Arches.

He said: "Whyte and Mackay is a prized asset with excellent growth opportunity and its acquisition is in line with our plans to enhance our product portfolio."