Baltic Beverages Holding AB, co-owned by Carlsberg and  Hartwell, has acquired a 76% stake in the IRBIS brewery in Alma-Ata in Kazakstan. IRBIS is one of the leading premium beer brands and the expansion into Kazakstan will contribute to BBH's continued fast growth, the company said.

In order to increase the brewing capacity at IRBIS to 0.8 million hl beer, BBH said it was to invest €45m in a new brewery, which is expected to be ready during the summer of 2004. During the construction period, IRBIS will be brewed both at the existing brewery and at some of BBH's Russian breweries.

During the past few years, the consumption of beer in Kazakstan has increased by 20%, BBH said, with per capita consumption 20 litres, which is a fourth of the Western European level, making the possibilities of growth strong. The market is divided among a number of smaller of breweries.

BBH said that with a 13% growth rate in the gross national product during the past few years, the economic development of Kazakstan has been stronger than that of any other previous Soviet republics. This year,
the growth rate is expected to be approx. 8%.