Japanese brewer Sapporo Holdings has said that Morgan Stanley is planning to offload its stake in the company.

Investment bank and consultancy group Morgan Stanley may sell all of its 1.8% stake, Sapporo said in a Tokyo Stock Exchange filing yesterday (6 July).

Morgan bought into Sapporo in 2007 as part of a deal that envisaged the investment house taking a 5% stake in the brewer by the end of June last year. However, the economic downturn has changed Morgan Stanley's plans, Sapporo said.

It added that the two would continue to work together on real estate projects, such as joint operation of the Yebisu Garden Place housing and shopping area of Tokyo.

Sapporo's net sales fell by 11% to JPY81.6bn (US$856m) in the first three months of 2009, compared to the same period a year earlier, the firm said in its recent first quarter results.

Operating losses for the quarter deepened to JPY3.3bn, compared to JPY1.3bn for the first quarter of 2008, while net losses remained broadly flat at JPY3.2bn.

Japan's beer market has continued to shrink in 2009, falling by 4% in volume terms for the first three months of the year, Sapporo said.