INDIA: UBL dismisses Foster's "talks"
Reports in India last week claimed that India's largest brewer would bid for Foster's operations in the country. A report in India's Hindu Business Line newspaper quoted UBL chairman Dr. Vijay Mallya as saying that the brewer would table an offer.
However, UBL CFO Lesley Jackson told just-drinks today (10 April) there had been "a lot of speculation on this subject" and added: "I can only reiterate that UBL is not in discussion with Foster's in connection with their business in India."
Last month, Jackson distanced UBL from a bid for Foster's brewing assets, which include a brewery in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
"We already have three breweries in Maharashtra so the actual brewing assets are of limited interest to us. We're not in conversation with (Foster's)," she told just-drinks.
Jackson also played down the possibility of United Breweries securing the Foster's licence in India, arguing that there were "plusses and minuses" of striking such a deal.
She questioned the long-term potential of international beer brands in India, given the ban on alcohol advertising in the country and also asked whether the average Indian beer drinker could afford their premium price tag.
"It's never going to be a big market. Foster's has been in India for six to eight years and came into the market when it was less consolidated. They have only a 3-4% market share, which shows how incredibly difficult it is for international brands."
She added: "You'd need to look at whether Foster's has historically been positioned properly in India and whether its needs repositioning in terms of pricing. But, it's an academic question - we haven't given it much thought, we're not pursuing anything. We're not in talks with Foster's."
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