Diageo chief stresses importance of Scotland remaining in the EU -WSJ

Thu May 29, 2014 6:54pm EDT

May 29 (Reuters) - The chief executive of Diageo Plc , the world's biggest producer of Scotch whisky, said a decision on Scottish independence was for "the people of Scotland to make," but said that remaining part of the European Union was "extremely important" for Diageo and for the Scotch whisky industry.

CEO Ivan Menezes said remaining part of the European Union is important because of the benefit from "free-trade agreements around the world."

He told the newspaper that possible changes to tax regulation and uncertainty over a future Scottish currency could be damaging for Scotch whisky distillers. (link.reuters.com/wub79v)

"What we will fight for is keeping our industry competitive and thriving, and we are very clear on what that requires," Menezes said.

He told the Journal that Diageo had spoken to both sides of the debate on Scottish independence. "We're being very proactive in ensuring the health of this industry is protected," he said.

"Unlike other businesses, we cannot pick up and leave Scotland," Menezes said. "We're there to stay."

Diageo, whose Scotch brands include Johnnie Walker, J&B, Buchanan's, Talisker and Lagavulinand, generates about a quarter of its 11.30 billion pounds ($18.88 billion) in annual sales from Scotch. (Reporting by Aashika Jain in Bangalore; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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