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INDIA: InBev silent on "imminent" deal

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InBev has refused to comment on reports in India that it is set to sign a brewing joint venture with local soft drinks company Jaipuria Group.

The Belgian brewing giant, which has yet to establish a presence in India, has been frequently linked with Jaipuria Group, which is the largest Pepsi bottler in the country, over the last 12 months.

An InBev spokesperson today (18 July) refused to be drawn on reports that it would sign a deal with Jaipuria Group "within 10 days". She said: "No comment - that's all we can say on that."

Raj Gandhi, CFO of the Jaipuria Group, yesterday told Dow Jones that the two companies would both hold a 50% stake in the venture.

"The decision has been taken. An agreement should be signed within a week to 10 days," Gandhi was quoted as saying.

Gandhi told Dow Jones that the venture would aim to build three breweries in India, adding that Jaipuria already sells one of InBev's flagship brands, Beck's, in Mauritius.

Jaipuria Group officials could not be reached for comment as just-drinks went to press.

InBev's multinational brewing rivals have been faster in spotting the potential of India's fledgling but fast-growing beer market. Scottish & Newcastle and SABMiller have in the last few years moved swiftly to establish a foothold in India. S&N owns a 37.5% stake in United Breweries, India's largest brewer, while SABMiller is the country's second-largest beer maker.

Heineken, through its Asian venture Asia Pacific Breweries, has in the last two months also swooped to buy a majority stake in local brewer Aurangabad Breweries and announced plans to set up a greenfield site in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India's largest beer market.

India's beer market is growing at around 7% a year, buoyed by a wealthier middle class. However, consumption in the country lags behind emerging markets like China due to the country's stiff regulation on the advertising and distribution of beer, as well as high taxes placed on the category compared to locally-produced spirits.


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