Heineken NV, the world’s second largest beer maker, has taken control of the country’s largest brewer United Breweries Limited (UBL), cementing its position in a vast market where beer consumption could grow from a low base.
The Dutch brewer said on Wednesday it had it had bought 3.96 crore shares in UBL to push its holding to 61.5 per cent from 46.5 per cent before. Based on Tuesday’s close at Rs 1,466, the acquisition would be worth Rs 5,810 crore.
UBL is the maker of the country’s top-selling Kingfisher lager and was owned by businessman Vijay Mallya, who India want to extradite from Britain over $1.4 billion of loans taken out from banks which authorities argue he had no intention of repaying.
The banks took possession of the stake and Competition Commission approved Heineken’s proposed acquisition of additional equity on Monday. Heineken has steadily been building its stake in UBL since taking an initial 37.5 per cent through its 2008 acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle.
Brokers Jefferies said India, accounting for 18 per cent of the global population but only about 1 per cent of world beer volumes, represented a long-term growth opportunity. Traditional drivers of beer expansion, a young population and economic growth, were in place, but high excise duty meant affordability was an issue.
A narrowing of the gap between tax on beer and on spirits, Jefferies said, would give significant potential for the market to grow from current annual beer consumption of 1.6 litres per capita towards the global average of 24.4 litres.