The privatisation of Serbia's brewing industry has apparently been put on hold until next year.

A report by the news agency Reuters said today that the decision had been made to work out a strategy to attract more competition to the sector and prevent multinationals from creating their own monopolies.

"We plan to complete the privatisation strategy for the remaining breweries by March 2004," Aleksandar Gracanac, the director of Serbia's state-run Share Fund which manages the state's shares, told Reuters.

In 2003 three brewers have been sold for a total of €440m (US$515m), including the sale of the country's biggest brewer Apatin for a total of €326.9m to Belgian giant Interbrew.

Gracanac said the state would have to decide whether to sell the remaining breweries, which includes the country's second largest brewer BIP, via international tenders or auction them on the local bourse.