Carlsberg is keen to up its presence in the east of China, but has stopped short of naming targets.

The Denmark-based brewer was responding to local reports yesterday (27 November), claiming that Carlsberg was tracking Beijing Yanjing Brewery, a company which has so far steadfastly refused approaches from multinational brewers.

"There really isn't much to say," said Jesper Madsen, Carlsberg's senior vice president for Asia, when contacted by just-drinks today. "We don't comment on specific companies."

Madsen conceded, however, that, apart from in western China, Carlsberg is lacking a presence in the mainstream sector throughout the rest of China.

The country has become a battleground for multinational brewers seeking to capitalise on the burgeoning beer consumption in the country. The market leader is Tsingtao, in which Anheuser-Busch owns a 27% stake, while SABMiller, Heineken, Carlsberg and Scottish & Newcastle have all been active in recent years building a presence in China.

However, the beer market in China is becoming ever more consolidated and Yanjing is seen as one of the last attractive domestic brewers available for potential investment from multinational brewers.

Earlier this year, Yanjing, in whom InBev and Heineken are also rumoured to be keen to get a stake, reported net profit for 2005 of CNY276.8m, up 2.3% from 2004, on the back of a 13.8% rise in sales to CNY5.3bn.