Heineken seals $3 bn deal with China's top brewer

The Hague (AFP) –


Dutch brewing behemoth Heineken said Monday it had finalised a $3 billion deal to merge its Chinese operations with the country's top brewer, expanding its access to the world's largest beer market.

Under the deal the Dutch brewer said it will take a 40 percent stake in the holding company that controls China Resources Beer, merge its current operations in China into the firm and license to it the Heineken brand for use in the country.

"Our long-term strategic partnership will help Heineken to significantly expand the availability of the Heineken brand, and will strengthen CR Beer's offering in the rapidly growing premium beer segment in China," said Heineken CEO Jean-Francois van Boxmeer.

Heineken, the world's number two brewer, had signed in August a preliminary agreement on the 2.68 billion euros ($3.1 billion) stake in CR Beer. The deal is still subject to regulatory approval.

The two firms are joining forces at a time when competition is becoming fierce in the Chinese market, with consumers turning towards foreign beers and premium products as middle class incomes rise.

Analysts said then that Heineken, which had three breweries in China, would have faced difficulties increasing its market share considerably by itself.