SABMiller has sold a juice business owned by Colombian brewer Bavaria, a deal that could protect its beer monopoly in the Latin American country.

Bavaria has offloaded its juice arm, Productora de Jugos, for US$55.3m to local soft drinks leader Postobon.

An SABMiller spokesman in London told just-drinks today (30 June) that the company had sold the juice operations to focus on its core businesses in Colombia. "It's our strategy to divest out of those additional businesses and focus on our more important businesses, which in (Colombia) are beer, malt drinks and waters," he said.

Under the agreement, SABMiller has agreed to team up with Postobon to help the Colombian group expand overseas. The SABMiller spokesman declined to reveal how the companies would work together, saying only that "talks were still underway" on possible co-operation.

The deal also saw the brewing giant secure the right of first refusal, should Postobon ever be put up for sale. The spokesman refused to be drawn on why SABMiller had asked for that clause to go into the agreement but it does protect the brewer's virtual monopoly in Colombia.

Analysts have suggested that SABMiller's deal with Postobon, which controls around 45% of Colombia's CSD market, has effectively blocked rival brewer InBev from entering the market.

InBev's Latin American brewing arm, AmBev, is the Pepsi bottler in most of Latin America and industry watchers had assumed that the Belgian brewing giant would try to enter Colombia by acquiring Postobon, which bottles Pepsi products there.

"This sale serves to largely insulate SABMiller from an attack by AmBev (InBev) into Colombia," said Bear Stearns analyst Carlos Laboy in a note to clients. "Essentially, the alliance shuts down the last major delivery network available to AmBev, at least for now."