Baltic Beverages Holding has made its first direct investment into Belarus with the purchase of a 30% stake in local beer maker Olivaria Brewery.

BBH, the Eastern European venture between brewers Carlsberg and Scottish & Newcastle, bought the stake for an undisclosed sum.

Olivaria controls 10% of the Belarus beer market, a market that has "strong future potential", BBH said today (21 December).

The Olivaria brewery is situated in the country's capital Minsk and has a capacity of 400,000 hectolitres. BBH said Olivaria planned to increase capacity to 600,000hl next year.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which invests in fledgling market economies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, has been looking for an international partner to invest in Olivaria since 2005. BBH said that EBRD would continue to hold a 21% stake.

A Carlsberg spokesman insisted Belarus was a good place to invest despite the country's tough business environment.

"It's a prosperous environment because beer consumption on a per capita basis is low at 33 litres per person. GDP growth is also quite extraordinary. Over the period from 1996 to 2004, GDP growth was at 6% a year," he told just-drinks.

BBH already exports its flagship Russian brand Baltika to Belarus.