United Spirits Limited

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United Spirits Limited
Type Public company
Traded as BSE532432
Industry Alcoholic beverages
Predecessors McDowell and Company
Founded Fort St. George, Madras, Madras Presidency, British India (1826 (1826))
Founders Angus McDowell
Headquarters UB Tower, No. 24, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, Karnataka, India
Area served Worldwide
Key people
  • Vijay Mallya (Chairman)
  • SR Gupte (Vice Chairman)
  • Ashok Capoor (President and MD)[1]
Parent United Breweries Group
Website unitedspirits.in

United Spirits Limited, abbreviated to USL, is an Indian alcoholic beverages company, and the world's second-largest spirits company by volume.[2] It is a subsidiary of the United Breweries Group, and headquartered at UB Tower in Bangalore, Karnataka. USL exports its products to over 37 countries.[3]


The company originated as a trading company called McDowell and Company (also known as McDowell & Co, McDowell or McDowell's), founded in India in 1826 by Angus McDowell, a Scot.[4] He set up a warehouse near Fort St. George, Madras (now Chennai).[5] The company imported liquor, tobacco products, and other consumer goods into India to serve the needs of British people stationed there.[5] McDowell & Company Limited was incorporated as a company in 1898, with an initial capital of INR8 lakh (US$13,000) as 4,000 preferred shares and 4,000 common shares of INR100 (US$1.60) each. The company's principal shareholders were A.M. Hooper, G.D. Coleman, and G.A. Ruppell.[5]

The Vittal Mallya-run United Breweries Group bought McDowell and Company in 1951.[4] In 1959, Mallya established the company's first distillery at Cherthala, Kerala on the banks of the Vembanad lake. McDowell's began bottling Bisquit Brandy and Dorville French Brandy, from imported concentrates, becoming the first company to manufacture Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL). The company opened India's first distillation plant to manufacture extra neutral alcohol (ENA) at Cherthala in 1961. The plant began bottling products for Herbertsons Limited of the Anglo Thai Group that same year. The company launched Golden Grape Brandy, its first original product, in 1962. The company launched McDowell's No.1 Brandy in 1963–64 when their contract with Herbertsons expired. In the early 1960s, the company acquired Carew & Co and Phipson & Co, manufacturers of rum, gin, and other hard liquors. in 1963-64.[5]

The company launched McDowell's No.1 whisky in 1968, and commissioned new distilleries in Hyderabad, Ponda (Goa), and Hathidah (Bihar) over the next few years. In the late 1970s, distilleries were acquired in Udaipur, Alwar, Mirganj, and Serampore, and a plant was built in Pondicherry. The company bought out Herbertsons in 1973. Mallya's son, Vijay Mallya, took over as director of McDowell's the same year, and assumed chairmanship of UB Group and McDowell's after Vittal Mallya died in 1983. McDowell's moved its headquarters from Madras to Bangalore in 1987. The company established a technical centre for product and process development research in Bangalore in 1989. McDowell's No.1 Rum was launched in 1990. McDowell's acquired the spirits business and manufacturing facility of Forbes Campbell & Company Limited. McDowell's formed United Distillers India Limited, India's first joint venture in the alcoholic beverages industry, with United Distillers p.l.c of the United Kingdom in 1991-92. McDowell's Signature whisky was launched in 1994. In 1995, Carew Phipson Limited, Consolidated Distilleries Ltd and several other companies were merged into McDowell's.[5] The company was incorporated as McDowell Sprits Ltd in 1999. The name was changed to McDowell & Company Ltd on 1 April 2000. McDowell Alcobev became a wholly owned subsidiary of McDowell & Company in 2002. In the same year, the company acquired Phipson Distilley, McDowell International Brands Ltd, and most of Triumph Distilleries & Vinters Pvt Ltd. McDowell launched Derby Special Whisky in 2003 and Old Cask rum in 2004.[6]

On 21 March 2005, McDowell & Company entered into an agreement with with Jumbo World Holdings Limited (JWHL) in Dubai to acquire Shaw Wallace.[7][8] The board of Shaw Wallace approved the merger of the company with USL and fixed the appointed date of the merger as 1 April 2008 subject to approvals.[9] In 2006, McDowell & Co Limited, Herbertsons Limited, Triumph Distillers and Vintners Private Limited, Baramati Grape Industries India Limited, Shaw Wallace Distilleries Limited and four other companies are merged to form United Spirits Limited. Bouvet Ladubay, subsidiary of France-based Taittinger was acquired, the same year.[5] The UB Group purchased Whyte & Mackay in May 2007 for £595 million.[10] USL also acquired Liquidity Inc., makers of Pinky vodka, in 2007. USL launched Black Dog 18 YO and Four Seasons Barrique Reserve in 2009-10, and McDowell's No 1 Platinum, 100% grain based whisky, in 2011.[5]

On 27 May 2013, Diageo acquired a 10% stake in United Spirits at a cost of INR20927196000 (US$340 million). It also separately acquired an additional 58,668 shares for INR 85,778,082.[11] On 4 July 2013, Diageo bought an additional 14.98% of the company for INR31.35 billion (US$510 million). Diageo acquired an additional 21.77 million shares at a cost of INR1440 (US$23) per share in an off-market-deal from United Spirits' promoters, raising its holdings to 25.02 per cent of the company.[12][13] Following the acquisition, Diageo holds 36.3 million shares in USL, acquired at a cost of INR52358.5 million (US$850 million),[14] making it the largest shareholder.[15]

Under pressure from Diageo, some substantial changes to the management structure of the firm have begun to take place.[16]

Technical Center[edit]

The USL Technical Center was opened in 1989 in Bangalore, and is recognized by the Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR) as an in-house Research & Development (R&D) laboratory. It is headed by Binod K. Maitin.[17]


USL manufactures Scotch whisky, Indian whisky, brandy, rum, vodka, gin and wine.[18]

Distillery locations[edit]

USL owns several distilleries throughout India, and also owns one unit in Nepal. Besides these, USL also has several contract and associate distilleries in India, and one in Nepal.[20]


  1. ^ "About Us > Management". Unitedspirits.in. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  2. ^ M Padmakshan (25 January 2010). "USL’s now world’s No 2 spirit co, replaces Pernod". The Economic Times. ET Bureau. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "About Us > USL at a Glance". Unitedspirits.in. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Diageo bottles Mallya genie". Telegraphindia.com. 10 November 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "UB Group supplement with April 2011 issue". Ambrosia. April 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  6. ^ United Spirits Ltd Background details about Company Profile. Indiainfoline.com. Retrieved on 23 December 2013.
  7. ^ "Mallya bottles Shaw Wallace". The Telegraph. 22 March 2005. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  8. ^ "Shaw Wallace braces for final battle". The Telegraph. 25 April 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "Shaw Wallace board okays merger with USL". The Hindu. 30 November 2007. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  10. ^ "Whisky giant sold to billionaire". BBC News. 16 May 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  11. ^ "Diageo increases stake in United Spirits". Stock Market Wire. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "United Spirits hits record high on change of guard". Business Standard. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  13. ^ "Diageo winds up with 25 pct stake in United Spirits". Reuters. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Diageo ends with 25% in United Spirits". Telegraphindia.com. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  15. ^ "Diageo completes stake acquisition in United Spirits". Big News Network. 4 July 2013. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Kurian, B., and Dhamija, A., Mallya rejigs executive payrolls as Diageo tightens leash, Times of India, 13 August 2013.
  17. ^ "About us > Technical Center". United Spirits Limited. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "Brands". United Spirits Limited. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  19. ^ Ub Global. Ub Global. Retrieved on 23 December 2013.
  20. ^ "About Us > Distilleries". Unitedspirits.in. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 

External links[edit]