Carlsberg appointed a new chief executive yesterday, triggering fresh speculation that the Danish brewer will make a move on Scottish & Newcastle, the maker of Foster's and Strongbow.
Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen, 52, who has been a member of Carlsberg's three-man executive board since April 2006, will take up the post on 1 October. He replaces Nils Andersen, who announced his resignation in June after six years at Carlsburg to head the shipping group AP Moeller-Maersk.
Shares in Scottish & Newcastle, which have been frothing on rumours of a bid for months, were ahead 1 per cent yesterday.
Mr Rasmussen said he had no plans to change the direction of the company. He said: "I am 100 per cent behind our strategy. We have shown we have momentum and we are out-performing competitors."
He added that the key focus was on improving profit in Western Europe and accelerating growth in Eastern Europe. He declined to comment about a tie-up with S&N, Carlsberg's joint venture partner in Russia Baltic Beverages Holdings, which owns the largest brewer there.
Mr Rasmussen is currently head of Carlsberg's Eastern Europe operations, which analysts say makes him the ideal candidate to oversee a potential merger and expansion of the group.
Before joining Carlsberg, Mr Rasmussen was president of Gillette's Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa division.
Jorn Jensen, Carslberg's chief financial officer, will become deputy chief executive.