Asahi Breweries is looking to improve efficiency by reorganising four of its units, according to press reports. Business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun said yesterday that the company plans to merge Nikka Whisky Distilling Co. and Asahi-Kyowa Liquor Manufacturing Co. early next year. It also intends to consolidate its wine production business by merging Asahi Beer Winery Ltd with Sainte Neige Wine Co. by August. No sources were cited in the report.

No job losses among the 680 workers employed by the four units are expected, the report added.

The waning popularity of the domestic beer and beer-like beverage markets has seen the importance of Asahi's other products increase. Asahi-Kyowa produces low-alcohol beverages such as shochu, a white-distilled liquor, and chuhai carbonated drinks.

Established in 2002, Asahi-Kyowa is a joint venture between Asahi Breweries - which holds 60% - and Kyowa Hakko Kogyo Co. Asahi plans to buy Kyowa Hakko's 40% stake and turn the company into a wholly-owned subsidiary before merging it with Nikka, the newspaper added.