Heineken believes it can gain a foothold in India's fast-growing beer market despite the dominance there of United Breweries and SABMiller.

Heineken venture Asia Pacific Breweries today (2 May) finally struck a deal to enter the Indian market with the acquisition of a majority stake in Aurangabad Breweries (AUBL).

The purchase marked Heineken's first foray into India, a market the Dutch brewer and APB has long coveted - but one in which UBL and SABMiller hold a combined market share of around 80%.

However, a Heineken spokesperson told just-drinks that the company believed AUBL's strong position in Maharashtra would give it the chance to grow sales in India. "We see that with AUBL's dominance in Maharashtra, a state which accounts for 15-20% of total sales in the Indian market, we see a good opportunity to further build on that already strong position,"

She said that Heineken and APB would look in the "long-term" to introduce Heineken into India's international beer segment, a category in which other global brewers have seen mixed success.

The spokesperson said the two brewers would "continue to look for opportunities" to expand their operations in Asia but refused to be drawn on APB's strong interest in the Asian assets of Foster's Group. "We wouldn't comment on that," she said.

Under the deal to buy AUBL - worth around US$18m - APB has also secured an option to buy up the rest of the Indian brewer by the end of 2008.

APB, the Singapore-based brewer in which Heineken owns a 42% stake, brews Tiger Beer and runs brewing operations in nine countries in Asia-Pacific including Singapore, Vietnam, China and New Zealand.