Harbin Brewery has followed its 2003 results by announcing plans to make acquisitions going forward. The mainland's fourth-largest brewer, 29.4%-owned by SABMiller, has said it is considering buying Ginsber Beer, a key rival in Jilin province.

In a statement, Harbin's chief executive Peter Lo said: "Industry competition as well as a series of mergers and acquisitions are bringing a lot of new challenges to brewers." Lo added that the company is looking to buy Ginsber, which is wholly-owned by township enterprise Hongzui Group.

The beer market in Jilin is shared between Harbin, Ginsber and China Resources Breweries, the latter being 49%-owned by SABMiller.

Lo said that his company had not held any discussions with China Resources Breweries, which is also interested in buying Ginsber, about a co-ordinated approach.

China's fragmented beer market, the world's largest by volume, is in the process of consolidation as global brewers look to invest in the country.

Earlier this week, Harbin announced that net profit for 2003 hit HK$114.38m (US$14.66m), based on a 25% rise in turnover to HK$1.4 billion.