Carlsberg has sold almost half of its stake in South Korean brewer Hite.

The Danish brewing giant has offloaded 11.9% of its 25% holding in Hite onto the South Korean stock market, raising DKK1.9bn (US$298m).

A spokesman for Carlsberg said the company, which had first bought a stake in Hite six years ago, had hoped to attain majority control of the brewer. However, the Park family, which holds a 27% shareholding in Hite and has run the brewer for 50 years, refused to cede control.

"They are not interested in saying goodbye to their dominance (of Hite)," the spokesman told just-drinks today (2 December).

He said Carlsberg had kept a stake in Hite because it "still represents a very profitable investment". Last year Hite, South Korea's largest brewer, contributed DKK135m after tax to Carlsberg's EBIT.

He added: "The main reason for the sale is we want to free up some capital from our minority shareholdings. Debt reduction is really on the agenda here. Our debt is relatively big and gives us problems when we want to participate in the consolidation in the market."

However, the spokesman denied that Carlsberg had any major acquisitions in the pipeline.

Carlsberg said the sale of the Hite stake would result in a capital gain of around DKK1.2bn but, due to impairment charges, would not result in any change to operating profit for 2005.