The Belgian brewer Interbrew has dropped its distribution partner in Thailand in favour of a new deal with the Boon Rawd Brewery, which will begin to produce the Interbrew brand Kloster under licence in the country.

Kloster is the third most important brand from INterbrew subsidiary Beck & Co, and has been available in Thailand since 1975 under licence agreement with Thai Amarit Brewery.

Boon Rawd Brewery is Thailand's Oldest Brewer and owns the country's most internationally recognized brands, Singha and Leo. Kloster, meanwhile, is a premium brand in its own right in the country, and, Interbrew said, it has been performing well, particularly in the areas surrounding Bangkok.

The production, distribution and marketing of Kloster will be transferred from Thai Amarit to Boon Rawd at the beginning of 2003.

"Both Interbrew and Boon Rawd have made a strong commitment to continue to develop Kloster's market share, utilising Boon Rawd's vast knowledge of the local beer market," said the company in a statement.

"This agreement between the two companies reflects the importance of Thailand in the overall scope of Interbrew's Asian strategy," it said.

In Thailand, where beer is generally considered a luxury product, beer consumption per capita went from 9 litres in 1994 to more than 19 litres in 2001. This figure from 2001 represents 16% of the total alcoholic-drink consumption per capita.

"We are very happy to have come to this agreement with Interbrew to start distributing and producing the Kloster brand in Thailand," said Santi Bhirom Bhakdi, president of Boon Rawd. "It will be an opportunity for both companies to work more closely together and to, perhaps, explore other ventures opportunities.

Hugo Powell, CEO of Interbrew said: "This licence agreement transfer from Kloster to Boon Rawd, is the result of a long standing and excellent relationship between Interbrew and the Bhirom Bhakdi family, owner of Boon Rawd Brewery. Interbrew is fully committed to working closely with Boon Rawd to continue to develop Kloster®'s market share in Thailand."