Authorities in India have reportedly thrown out an appeal by Heineken’s United Breweries to have a fine worth INR7.5bn (US$90.6m) overturned.

The fine – imposed in 2021 over the brewery’s role in a price-fixing cartel – was upheld after The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) dismissed the appeal, according to local media.

A two-member NCLAT bench said after examining the materials and considering the arguments, it was of view the “appellants had already admitted in the leniency application regarding their involvement in the cartelisation”.

“We do not find merit in either of the appeals and all the appeals are dismissed,” the bench reportedly noted.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) fined United Breweries, as well as Carlsberg’s unit in India in September 2021 after a decade-long investigation into cartelisation in beer prices and supplies.

United Breweries and Carlsberg India were found to have been colluding with each other, SABMiller India (renamed Anheuser Busch India after being bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev) and the All India Brewers’ Association (AIBA) to align beer prices and implement increases in several Indian states.

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United Breweries was initially fined INR7.5bn and Carlsberg INR1.2bn. AB InBev escaped without a fine after receiving a full reduction. Reuters previously reported that AB InBev had blown the whistle on the price-fixing after the purchase of SABMiller.

According to the CCI, price coordination allegedly took place in eight states including Delhi, while restrictions on beer supplies in some states also occurred.

Four employees at both United Breweries and SABMiller, six at Carlsberg and the director-general of AIBA were found liable for “anti-competitive” conduct, the CCI said.

Carlsberg confirmed to Just Drinks it had paid its fine, which it said amounted to approximately DKK91m “at the end of 2021”.

“The new confirmation does not affect Carlsberg India as they did not appeal the judgment,” a spokesperson for the Tuborg brewer said.

Just Drinks has approached Heineken for comment.

Heineken took majority control of United Breweries in June 2021 after buying a further 15% stake in the Indian group. United Breweries is India’s largest beer manufacturer and produces Kingfisher, India’s best-selling beer.

Last month, AB InBev revealed plans to invest INR5bn in its India business to expand production capacity.

The money will be injected into AB InBev’s brewery in Mysore, Karnataka, in south-west India, which produces Budweiser Premium, Budweiser Magnum and Hoegaarden beers.

2023 outlook – pockets of positivity in an otherwise pessimistic beer landscape