Carlsberg Breweries is to acquire the two Polish Breweries, Bosman Browar Szczecin and Kasztelan Browar Sierpc, from the Bitburger beverage group, through its Polish-based subsidiary Okocim.

The move is part of an effort to establish a strong base in Poland. And the Danish brewer also announced today that it had bought the majority shareholding in Browary Dolnoslaskie Piast S.A. (Piast) through the Dutch holding company Dyland. The Piast acquisition will enter into force as of 15 August 2001.

The plan is to merge the new acquisitions with Okocim. Marcin Piróg, the present CEO of Okocim, will become CEO of the new company, which will change its name to Carlsberg Okocim to mark the start of a new Polish company.

The deal will see Carlsberg Okocim become the number three brewer in the Polish market with a total production of nearly 4m hectolitres a year.

The Polish market is among the fastest growing in Europe, with an annual growth rate of 9.3% between 1993 and 2000. Poland is the 11th largest market in the world consuming 24m hl a year.

The Bosman and Kasztelan breweries had a combined market share of 5.4% in the first half of 2001. With Piast's share of 3.1% and Okocim's present share of 7.2%, Carlsberg Okocim's total share of the Polish beer market will be approximately 16%.

In a statement, the company said: "The acquisitions give Carlsberg Okocim critical mass in the Polish market thus enabling it to establish an efficient national distribution and sales force and to introduce a new branding strategy positioning Carlsberg as the international premium beer and Okocim as the national brand supplemented by strong regional brands."

The annual value of synergies of the merger is expected to exceed PLN60m. The aim is to achieve an EBIT margin of around 10% in 2003.

Upon the conclusion of the merger process, Carlsberg Breweries will control 67% of Carlsberg Okocim, with Bitburger holding 18% and minority shareholders making up the remaining 15%.

The acquisitions and planned merger are subject to approval by Polish authorities and the new structure of Carlsberg Okocim is subject to approval by the general assemblies of Okocim and Piast.