Carlsberg Breweries Group is to invest US$27 million in its Vena Brewery in St Petersburg is to double its production capacity to keep up with the growing demand for its Tuborg and Nevskoye premium beers.

The investment includes new brewing capacity and a bottling line, which will double its production capacity to 2.4m hectolitres from the present 1.2m hectolitres.

The company has witnessed good growth in the last 12 months thanks to a new company strategy that aims to dominate the premium beer sector in the Russian beer strongholds of Moscow and St Petersburg.

During the first quarter of 2001 volumes rose by 173%, driven by sales of Tuborg in the international premium sector and Nevskoye in the local premium sector.

"We have been achieving record sales volumes every month since October last year, even through the traditionally slack winter season, and that success has brought us up to our production limit," said Vena's managing director Barry C. Marshall.

The new brewing capacity combined with the new bottling line will help strengthen Vena's presence by increasing the supply of the 0.5 litre bottles that account for 75% of sales on the Russian beer market.

The company said production of additional beer volumes will allow the company not only to better satisfy the demand of consumers in the two major cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, but also to expand its deliveries to other regions of Russia.

Vena is 66% owned by Denmark-based Carlsberg Breweries and 33% owned by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.