The Mexican brewer, Fomento Economico Mexicano SA (Femsa), has filed a lawsuit against Interbrew in the US with the aim of blocking the integration of the Beck's brand, which Interbrew acquired in August, into the group's US subsidiary, Labatt USA.

Beck's, ranked as the fourth best selling imported beer brand in the US, would compete with Femsa's own brand, Tecate, also in the Labatt portfolio.

Some observers have suggested this is an attempt by Femsa, which is 30%-owned by Interbrew through its Labatt subsidiary, to extricate itself from the Labatt distribution network in the US. Femsa - already a long way behind the other prime Mexican beer import, and the leading imported beer brand in the US, Corona - is thought to be concerned about being further squeezed in a competitive market place by the arrival of Beck's. Labatt USA also distributes Labatt Blue, the third best selling imported beer after Corona and Heineken. Interbrew is also committed to promoting its Stella Artois brand in the US.

Femsa would not comment on the case and Interbrew's spokesman, Corneel Maes, would only confirm that the case had been filed by Femsa but gave no further details.