Last orders loomed for Foster's brewer Scottish & Newcastle yesterday after it agreed a £7.8 billion takeover offer from rivals Heineken and Carlsberg.

The European suitors, who have been pursuing Edinburgh-based S&N since October, plan to carve up the business when the deal is completed.

The move is set to call time on more than 250 years for the brewer, which also makes Kronenbourg 1664 and Newcastle Brown Ale.

The group also includes Bulmer's, the Hereford cidermaker which it took over in 2003.

S&N's board finally accepted the European duo's fourth offer for the business, worth 800p a share. The offer is more than 50 per cent higher than when speculation began over a possible takeover in March last year.

The brewer has previously accused Carlsberg and Heineken of trying to pick up the business "on the cheap".

But chairman Sir Brian Stewart said yesterday: "The board believes that the consortium's offer delivers a fair value for S&N, reflecting its growth prospects."

Danish firm Carlsberg will take on S&N's stake in BBH, their fast-growing 50/50 joint venture in Russia and the Baltics, as well as the firm's operations in France, Greece, China and Vietnam.

Carlsberg said the firm "now has full control of our destiny in Russia and other BBH territories".

Dutch giant Heineken meanwhile will become the UK's leading brewer after taking on S&N's domestic business, as well as bolstering its position in several European markets.

Heineken chief executive Jean-Francois van Boxmeer said: "It gives us undisputed leadership in Europe and creates significant opportunities in profitable markets."

The group currently has about 3,300 staff in the UK, with breweries in Manchester, Reading, Dunston near Newcastle, and Tadcaster, in North Yorkshire as well as at Hereford. It also has administrative staff in Edinburgh and Staines, Middlesex.

S&N, which also makes John Smith's, has grown to become the world's seventh

largest brewer by sales volume since the original William Younger brewery was established in Leith, Edinburgh back in 1749.

William Younger merged with fellow Edinburgh brewer William McEwan to form Scottish Brewers in 1913, before merging with Newcastle Breweries in 1960 to become Scottish & Newcastle.

Heineken, which will take control of S&N's UK operations, would not comment on potential job losses at the company. The Dutch company currently has no brewing operations in this country.

The deal will also net £218 million for Blackpool Tower owner and leisure tycoon Trevor Hemmings, who sold holiday camp chain Pontins to Scottish & Newcastle in 1989 in return for a stake in the brewer.

Mr Hemmings, who also owns 2005 Grand National winner Hedgehunter, bought Pontins back from S&N in 2000, but retains a 2.8 per cent stake in the Edinburgh-based brewer.

Iain MacLean, national officer of the Unite union said: "The takeover talks have been a hard battle and Scottish and Newcastle have finally succumbed. It will result in a period of uncertainty for the workforce and we are primarily concerned

about the implications for UK jobs. We have a meeting with Scottish and Newcastle next week and we will be looking for Carlsberg Heineken to guarantee the security of our members' jobs."

Shirley-Anne Somerville, SNP MSP for Lothians region, said: "Scottish & Newcastle have a highly skilled workforce based in Edinburgh and the Lothians and it would be a great shame for all those employed by S&N if the new owners were to let those skills go," she said.

"I will be contacting Carlsberg and Heineken to ask their intentions with regard to the workforce and offer my support to all Scottish and Newcastle employees at this time."

£7.8bn takeover agreed for Scottish & Newcastle