India. United Breweries launches super-premium beer Heineken

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United Breweries introduced locally brewed and botted Heineken lager in Mumbai and Pune this month and will roll it out across 7-10 other markets by the year end, the company said.

Heineken is being positioned as a super-premium international beer at a 30% premium over Kingfisher Ultra beer and competitor Carlsberg’s eponymous beer, Shekhar Ramamurthy, deputy president of United Breweries (UB), said. It will carry a price tag of Rs 170 for a 650 ml bottle.

Heineken holds 37.5% share in India’s largest brewer, a stake it picked up when it jointly bought out Scottish & Newcastle with Danish major Carlsberg in 2008. United Breweries and Heineken, which sells 200 million hectolitres of beer worldwide, agreed to manufacture the iconic Dutch brand in late 2009.

UB has begun manufacturing at its brewery in Taloja, Mumbai. “There is no plan to extend production to other UB breweries,” Ramamurthy, added. UB also has access to Heineken’s brand portfolio but is not likely to introduce other brands at the moment, the company said.

Ramamurthy believes the brand has enough recall in India. “It is arguably the best known international beer brand. It will add to our portfolio as Indian consumers are upgrading with higher disposable income. While some of our consumers will make it a part of their portfolio on certain ocassions, others may switch to it. We believe that although the market is small now, it will evolve,” he said.

The Vijay Mallya-led company reported 6.68% year-on-year fall in net profit at Rs 71.04 crore in the first quarter against Rs 76.13 crore in the comparable period. This was despite robust sales increase of 23.02% to Rs 943.79 crore in the period.

In the quarter under consideration, its profits were weighed down by higher interest and finance charges. “Interest costs for the quarter increased due to higher interest rates and higher debt also resulting from the repayment of preference shares worth Rs 173 crore in early April,” a company satement, said on Tuesday.

The companies results were announced after market hours. UB stock was down 0.26% to Rs 474.25 on the BSE on Wednesday.