Carlsberg is considering building two new breweries in southern India within the next five years as it looks to challenge established players like SABMiller and UB Group in the country's promising beer sector.

A spokesperson for Carlsberg told just-drinks today (8 June) that the brewer is considering building to two new breweries in southern India as part of its wider strategy to expand further in Asian beer markets.

The spokesperson said that Carlsberg remains committed to expanding further in the country, despite a focus in 2009 on cutting costs and paying down debt in the midst of the global economic downturn and following the group's acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle assets last year.

"As we have said several times since last year, we will expand in India when and if it is possible."

He added: "It might be interesting for us over the next two, three or four years to build another two greenfield breweries. However, no decision has been made."

Carlsberg opened its third and fourth breweries in India last year, via its joint venture group South Asia Breweries. The firm is 45%-controlled directly by Carlsberg, with another 45% stake belonging to a group of investors led by Carlsberg's Sri Lankan partner, The Lion Brewery Ceylon. Industrialisation Fund for Developing Countries owns the remaining 10% stake.

India's beer market is currently dominated by SABMiller and United Breweries, part of billionaire Vijay Mallya's UB Group empire. These two control around 80% of the sector.

"We hope to be able to grow there as well," said the Carlsberg spokesperson, adding that the group is prepared to invest to "gain a platform".

Indian beer consumption per capita is only around one litre, compared to more than 150 litres for the world's biggest beer consuming nation per capita, Czech Republic.

India's drinking population is thought to be around 500m, however, presenting clear market potential as the country climbs the global economic ladder. 

Carlsberg's South Asia Breweries JV, established in 2006, currently has breweries in the Indian states of Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh.

Carlsberg CEO Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen said in an interview published by the Financial Times newspaper last week that the Danish brewer planned to up its investment in Asia, with a focus on China, India and Vietnam.