GERMANY: Heineken ally rebuffs Paulaner talk

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Brau Holding International, Germany's third-largest brewer, has insisted flagship brand Paulaner is not for sale amid reports that rival brewer Radeberger is eyeing the wheat beer.

BHI, a joint venture between German conglomerate Schörghuber Gruppe and Heineken, sees Paulaner as its "crown jewel" and intends to hang on to the brand, the company said today (5 December).

A spokesman for Schörghuber Gruppe told just-drinks that it was not the first time that rumours had surfaced on the future of Paulaner.

"These rumours basically occur every time the CEO of Radeberger has contact with journalists in Germany. Then there are also rumours about Schörghuber selling up or Heineken selling up," the spokesman said.

"None of these rumours have any essence; there are no talks or plans to sell Paulaner or our parts of the joint venture."

Officials at Radeberger could not be reached for comment as just-drinks went to press.

Schörghuber and Heineken formed the BHI venture in 2001; Schörghuber has majority control of the venture with Heineken owning a 49% stake. The Schörghuber spokesman said the two companies had adopted to build a regional base in the south of Germany - in contrast to nearest rivals Radeberger and InBev.

He said: "There are three approaches to the German beer market. There is the InBev approach of trying to buy everything and then having to sell lots of it again. Then, there is the Radeberger approach, which is trying to buy everything you can get and then closing breweries and getting rid of headcount."

InBev is set to sell its Stuttgart-based Dinkelacker-Schwaben Bräu and in the last 12 months has sold its Zwickau and Wolters breweries in the country. Last year, Radeberger sold two breweries in Berlin and Dortmund.

The Schörghuber spokesman added: "Our approach is a regional approach. Beer is very regional in Germany; we have respected this and built a very strong position in the south of Germany."

Trying to become number one in Germany did not make any sense, the spokesman said. "You could put a lot of money on the table to buy every brewery in Germany but what would you earn out of it? InBev paid an awesome amount of money for Beck's and bought a lot of smaller breweries; that's not really value for money."

BHI sold 11m hectolitres of beer in Germany in 2005 with 2.6m hl of Paulaner being sold. Sales forecasts for Paulaner sales during 2006 showed the brand is "well ahead" of last year, the spokesman said.

He added: "We want to gain market share in a shrinking market. Paulaner is earning very good money but there is still room for improvement."

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