Heineken has admitted it needs to get a brewery up and running as soon as possible in South Africa after winning back the local rights to beer brand Amstel.

The Dutch brewing giant told just-drinks today (13 March) that it wants to have a brewery operational in South Africa within the next two years.

Heineken has agreed "in principle" to build a facility in the country and is in the middle of drawing up specific plans for the site, a spokesperson said. "In the short term, we will obviously face challenges in the supply chain because we will have one-way bottles coming in from Europe," she said.

Some 80% of all beer consumed in South Africa is sold in returnable bottles making it a priority for a brewery to have a local manufacturing presence in the country.

Brandhouse, a venture between Heineken, Diageo and Namibia Breweries, will import Amstel from Heineken's breweries in France, Italy and Holland.

Heineken regained control of Amstel from rival brewing titan SABMiller after an arbitration panel ruled yesterday (12 March) that the London-listed brewer should give up the rights to the brand.

The International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce backed Heineken's view that SABMiller's 2005 acquisition of Latin American brewer Bavaria had led to a "material change in ownership" of the brewer. As part of that deal, Bavaria's owners, the Santo Domingo family, had secured a 15.04% stake in SABMiller.

For its part, SABMiller expressed its "surprise" at the ruling but said it would look at ways to help bolster its position in South Africa's fast-growing premium beer segment. Around 2.3m hectolitres of Amstel are sold in the country each year, accounting for 8% of all beer sold in South Africa.

"It will be a combination approach; Amstel is a big brand and we can't expect to introduce a brand and hope to replicate 2.3m hl of volume," an SABMiller spokesman in London told just-drinks. "We will expand our premium offering and focus on brands like Pilsner Urquell and Peroni and possibly look at introducing new products and extending existing variants in South Africa."

SABMiller remains the dominant brewer in South Africa with a market share of around 90%.