Anheuser-Busch approached Czech rival Budejovicky Budvar to start the talks that led to the two companies signing an import deal for the US market, just-drinks has learnt.

The Czech brewer said it was the US brewing giant that instigated the discussions over the deal to handle the Czechvar brand in the US.

The two brewers, which for decades have been locked in a dispute over the rights to the Budweiser name in markets around the world, yesterday (8 January) stunned the beer world when they put aside their differences to join forces in the US.

A-B will import and sell the Czechvar brand in the country, where Budejovicky Budvar is unable to sell its flagship beer using the Budweiser trademark.

Speciality beer importer Distinguished Brands International had handled Czechvar in the US but its agreement with Budejovicky Budvar expired at the end of last year.

A spokesman for Budejovicky Budvar said A-B approached the company to begin talks as part of its drive to bolster its presence in the import segment in the US, where demand for foreign beer is booming.

"They had been looking for a suitable quality imported beer brand, which could be selected into their range as super-premium," he told just-drinks.

Dave Peacock, vice president for business operations at A-B was coy over who instigated the talks. "We've worked with Budejovicky Budvar extensively on trademark issues in the past, and [A-B president and CEO] August A. Busch IV has spent several years getting to know Jiri Bocek [his counterpart at the Czech brewer]. They cultivated a relationship and began discussing a potential import agreement."

Peacock said the US deal would benefit both sides. "While the US import agreement does not resolve our ongoing trademark disputes, working together is an important step for our companies. We are hopeful that our trademark issues eventually will be resolved."

The Budejovicky Budvar spokesman agreed that both brewers could work together in the US despite years of acrimonious legal disputes over the Budweiser name.

He said: "We have managed to move away from discussions between lawyers and towards a practical dialogue.

"The contract is unambiguously beneficial to both sides. We have brought a top product into this mutual project, which perfectly suits A-B's long-term strategy on the American market. On the other hand, we have accessed a large distribution system on the market, which is sure to substantially grow in the following years."

The Budejovicky Budvar spokesman dismissed suggestions that the US deal could be a precursor to a future takeover offer from A-B for the state-owned brewer.

"Business co-operation can well be effective without a property investment. The issue of privatisation was therefore neither mentioned nor dealt with," he said.