Heineken has announced its intention to buy the beverage division of Swiss company Eichhof Holding.

The Holland-based brewer said today (10 April) that the transaction, at a price of CHF278.5m (US$281.1m), will give Heineken an estimated, combined market share of 23% in Switzerland.

The beverage division of Eichhof Holding comprises the production and distribution of beers, non-alcoholic beverages and wine and employs about 450 staff. The company owns the Eichhof brewery in Lucerne, which has a production capacity of 400,000 hectolitres and 2007 domestic beer sales of 361,000 hectolitres. Its main brand, Eichhof, is the leading mainstream beer in the Lucerne region. The company has an estimated 10% market share of the Swiss beer market, while soft drinks and wine account for 45% of total volumes.

"This deal will strengthen our position in the Swiss market," said Didier Debrosse, regional president of Heineken Western Europe. "The combination of Heineken and Eichhof's complementary brand portfolios with our commercial, operational and logistics best practices will drive growth. We acknowledge the strong local roots of Eichhof and the typical Swiss Eichhof brand will play an important role in the combined portfolio."

The tender offer will be launched on 7 May, with the acquisition, which will be funded from existing credit facilities, expected to close in the third quarter, subject to Eichhof shareholder and Swiss competition authority approval.

Heineken already owns one brewery in Switzerland, and currently accounts for 13% market share.