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United Spirits temporarily closes distilling sites in India

Diageo-controlled drinks group United Spirits has closed its offices and manufacturing facilities in India following the country’s 21-day coronavirus lockdown.

United Spirits’ portfolio includes Indian whiskies McDowell’s No. 1 and Royal Challenge

India imposed a nationwide lockdown a week ago on 24 March to stop the imminent spread of covid-19.

In a notice to shareholders last Thursday (26 March), United Spirits said it had been “closely monitoring the situation and managing its operations while taking necessary preventive measures”.

United Spirits has closed all its offices and manufacturing units in compliance with the country’s lockdown until 14 April “subject to further directives issued by the respective government authorities and the company’s assessment of the prevailing situation”, the group said.

Regarding the temporary closure, United Spirits added “it is not possible to make an assessment of the financial impact” currently.

The Indian drinks firm said its main concern was the welfare of its employees, their families, and local communities. The company has also adopted a work from home policy for its office-based staff.

In addition, United Spirits is also supporting the Indian government and the hospitality sector during the outbreak with a number of initiatives.

The firm will produce around 300,000 litres of bulk hand sanitiser across 15 manufacturing sites for use by public healthcare workers and donate 500,000 litres to the sanitiser industry to enable the production of more than two million units (250ml each) of the disinfectant.

United Spirits has also pledged to help the on-trade with healthcare cover for bartenders and has donated nearly 150,000 masks to public health departments in the country.

The move to close United Spirits’ Indian operations comes as a trade union urges Diageo to halt production at its bottling and distilling sites across Scotland amid concerns over the safety and stress levels of workers during the pandemic.

Last month, Diageo increased its shareholding in United Spirits to 55.9% as part of the firm’s long-term premiumisation strategy in India.

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