The leading Japanese beer group, Asahi Breweries Ltd, is reportedly in negotiations to acquire a 10% stake in the privately-owned regional brewer, Orion Beer Co. The company has not commented on the press speculation linking it with Orion but a report in the Japanese business daily, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, said the two companies were discussing Asahi acquiring a 10% stake in the company. The deal would make Asahi the largest individual shareholder in Okinawa-based Orion.

Asahi and Orion have been discussing a possible strategic alliance since last year. Orion is known to want to bolster itself against the loss of a preferential tax break on Okinawa island which expires in five years. According to the report, the companies believe Asahi taking an equity stake in Orion would facilitate cooperation in product development, production and marketing of both beer and happoshu.

In terms of scale, Orion is dwarfed by the mighty Asahi, with its sales representing a domestic market share of around 0.7%.