SABMiller has signalled its interest in buying Indian beer maker Mohan Meakin but faces stiff competition from rival global brewers, just-drinks understands.

It is understood that SABMiller, the second-largest brewer in India, has outlined its interest to acquire Mohan Meakin in time for today's (23 December) deadline for submissions. The brewer has set aside US$125m to strengthen its presence in India over the next five years through acquisitions and brand investment.

Mohan Meakin controls 8% of India's beer market with its stronghold the state of Tamil Nadu, one of India's three largest states in terms of beer consumption.

SABMiller, which owns 10 breweries throughout India, has a bottling agreement with Mohan Breweries in Tamil Nadu but does not have a direct brewing presence in the state. SABMiller is thought to control around 31% of India's beer market and the acquisition of Mohan Meakin would leave it hot on the heels of market leader, United Breweries (UBL).

SABMiller's agreement with Mohan Breweries - run by a close associate of the family that owns Mohan Meakin - would appear to make it the front-runner in the race for the brewer. The London-based brewer declined to comment on the matter, however.

However, just-drinks understands that InBev has been eyeing the situation closely. InBev refused to comment on the sale of Mohan Meakin but it has long been interested in entering India's fast-growing beer market. InBev last year narrowly missed out on joining forces with UBL, which decided instead to team up with the UK's largest brewer, Scottish & Newcastle.

Heineken, through its Asian joint venture with Asia Pacific Breweries, is another global brewer said to be interested in Mohan Meakin. APB has signalled its interest in the Indian market in recent months.

However, Heineken and APB also refused to comment.