UK-based brewer Cobra Beer may decide to list its shares through an initial public offering, merge the company, or sell it to an interested buyer within the next three years, the company's founder and chairman, Karan Bilimoria told reporters on Tuesday (20 May).

The company is considering the three choices as Cobra continues to grow at a rapid pace. Speaking on the sidelines of the Financial News' India Investor Summit in London, Bilimoria did not specify whether the company is considering a partial or full share listing, or a partial sale or full sale of the company.

Since 1997, the fledgling Indian beer brand brewer has grown its beer sales at a rate of 40% and expects to reach GBP1bn (US1.98bn) by 2011, up from GBP200m in annual sales forecast for the fiscal year to June.

Bilimoria said the company would consider listing its shares either in the UK or in India and was already raising GBP30m in debt and equity to fund its expansion plans in the UK and internationally.

He told Dow Jones the GBP30m will be used for marketing and to expand a 2.5m-litre-a-year Indian brewery it acquired in January. The company wants to expand the brewery to 5m litres a year, Bilimoria said.

Cobra Beer owns nine breweries in India. It has increased its Indian production from 200,000 cases a month in November 2006 to the current 400,000 cases.

Bilimoria, who stepped down as chief executive in August last year, said India has untapped potential for growth. India consumes roughly 1 litre of beer per person annually.

"That's where China was 25 years ago and now (China) is number one...India is going to catch up and is going to be one of the two largest (consumers) in the next (25 years)," Bilimoria told Dow Jones. He said the Indian beer market is growing at a rate of 27% a year.

In India "we've only seen the trailer, the blockbuster is yet to come," he said.

The company was unavailable for comment when contacted by just-drinks today (22 May).