Japanese brewers’ thirst for highly fancied Sabeco

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Japanese brewers Kirin Holdings and Asahi Group Holdings are licking their lips at the thought of investing in Vietnam’s state-owned brewer Sabeco.

Representatives from the two beer makers last week separately met leaders of Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) to look at investment in their local counterpart.

“Kirin said it wanted to become a strategic partner of Sabeco, while Asahi expressed a desire to become a stakeholder of Sabeco,” said Phan Chi Dung, director of MoIT’s Light Industry Department, who attended the meetings with both brewers.

Sabeco, which is under the MoIT management, is one of the largest beer producers in Vietnam. The firm last week reported total revenue of around $1 billion in 2011, up 13 per cent against 2010.

But Dung said it was too early to say whether Kirin and Asahi would invest in the local Sabeco beer-maker, adding that the potential investors would now have to submit specific investment plans to the MoIT for further discussion.

The moves of both Kirin and Asahi – the two largest brewers in Japan – follow recent announcements of their plans to expand into South East Asia, including Vietnam, by acquiring stakes at existing local breweries. Three years ago, Asahi had plans to acquire a 10 per cent stake in Sabeco, but the deal never came to fruition.

Kirin last year listed Vietnam among the top 25 beer-consuming markets in the world. In 2010, the country was ranked as the 15th biggest beer producing nation in the world, with 15.2 per cent growth against 2009.

The MoIT forecasts demand for beer in Vietnam will rise to 5.8 million kilolitres by 2020 from 2.6 million kilolitres in 2010.

Growing beer consumption in Vietnam has attracted the attention of many foreign brewers. Another Japanese beer maker, Sapporo Holdings, late last year started production of its international strategic Sapporo Premium product at its first factory in southern Long An province.

Yoshiyuki Mochida, president of Sapporo International, said the firm may decide to open a second factory in Hanoi in 2014 as consumption in Vietnam is forecast to overtake that in Japan by 2020 if current trends continue.

Singapore’s Asia-Pacific Breweries Ltd announced in May 2011 that it would increase production capacity at its brewery in Ho Chi Minh City from 2.8 million hectolitres to 4.2 million hectolitres to further strengthen its position and sharpen its competitive edge in Vietnam.