US/INDIA: A-B finally unveils India plans

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Anheuser-Busch has confirmed its long-rumoured entry into the Indian beer market.

The US brewing giant today (22 February) announced that it would set up a local venture with Indian brewer Crown Beers.

The venture, Crown Beers India, will include a state-of-the-art brewery in the Indian city of Hyderabad. The business will produce and sell a number of brands in India, including Budweiser.

A-B has been mulling whether to enter India's fast-growing beer market for months. The US brewing giant is the latest brewing multinational to be attracted to the potential of the Indian beer market. Per capita beer consumption remains low but India's growing middle classes are showing an increasing thirst for beer.

"While India is a small beer market today, it is growing rapidly and has tremendous long-term potential," said A-B president and CEO August A. Busch.

A-B and Crown will both hold a 50% stake in the venture. The brewery in Hyderabad, which will produce Budweiser for the Indian market, is expected to be completed next month. Budweiser will go on sale in India in May.

Srikanth M. Reddy, joint managing director at Crown Beers, said the site and the brand would be "symbols of excellence throughout India".

The Indian beer market is dominated by Kingfisher brewer United Breweries - in which Scottish & Newcastle holds a 37.5% stake - and SABMiller. Between them, the two brewers control around 80% of the market.

However in the last year, other brewing multinationals have taken the plunge into the Indian beer market. Heineken - through its Asian venture Asia Pacific Breweries - has bought a majority stake in one Indian brewer and announced plans to set up a greenfield site in the last 12 months, while Carlsberg is planning to build a greenfield brewery in Rajasthan.

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