Heineken Italia and Interbrew have terminated the license and distribution agreements which gave Heineken Italia the right to produce and distribute Interbrew's Belgian brands and the Labatt range in the Italian market since 1995.

As a result, Interbrew will regain full control of its premium and speciality brands in the Italian market as of 1 March 2003, while Heineken Italia will launch its own range of specialty beers.

"This transaction concerns the return of all rights to Interbrew's Belgian brands, as well as the Labatt range, in the Italian market, for a total consideration of €19.5m. It also further strengthens Interbrew, The Worlds Local Brewer©, as the number 1 importer of beers in Italy and allows the company to capture the full margin of its business in the Italian market," said Interbrew in a statement.

Heineken has been managing the production and distribution in the Italian market of Interbrew's Stella Artois and its Belgian speciality brands since 1995 and of the Labatt range since 1996.

Stella had sales volume of 170.000 hectolitres in 2001. Within the total Italian beer market (16.7m hectolitres in 2001), the import segment represents 26% and has been the fastest growing beer segment in Italy over the last 10 years.