The CEO of Grupo Modelo has hailed the US deal between local rival Femsa and Heineken as a "master move". Carlos Fernandez warned, however that the Mexican company would not give up its leading position in the US import market - with 37% of imports - without a fight.

Last month, Femsa announced that it was giving Heineken sole US import rights for its beers, including Dos Equis and Tecate.

In an interview, reported by Reuters, Fernandez said: "There are moves that I would classify as masterful from many of our international competitors ... master moves because no one expected them. The most reasonable would have been (for Femsa) to link with a local producer in the US and have made some sort of alliance but it did not do it like that. Very good.

"I believe (the Femsa-Heineken link) is going to strengthen, a lot, the portfolio of global brands that they are going to sell now in the US," Fernandez said.

"But it is nothing new," he added. "The important thing is not to rest on our laurels, to be very alert and look after our brands. That's always been our philosophy.

"We are going to dedicate time to doing what we have always done, and that is to fight," he said.

The deal between Heineken and Femsa, which did not involve any money changing hands, came a month after Femsa severed its ties with Interbrew, agreeing to pay the Belgian company US$1.245 bln to end a 10-year alliance.

Modelo exports five times more beer to the US than Femsa, the press agency noted.