Asia Pacific Breweries is making headway in its aim to become the region's leading brewer, with its first acquisition in the world's second most populous nation, India.
The Singapore-listed group that makes the Tiger beer brand said on Tuesday that it had bought a 76 per cent stake in India's Aurangabad Breweries.
The new deal, worth approximately US$18 million, follows the firm's acquisition of a 60 per cent stake in a Sri Lankan brewery in September last year. It has also recently announced plans to build a brewery in Mongolia.
But a foothold in India gives the aggressively expanding group access to what is expected to become one of the world's biggest beer markets.
India's beer market has been growing at a compound rate of more than 7 per cent annually and growth is expected to accelerate, as deregulation gains momentum across the Indian states.
The beer market is also anticipated to grow strongly on the back of a growing young and affluent middle class.
Although total beer consumption is only around 8 million hectolitres per annum - less than 1 litre per capita and well behind Chinese consumption - a rising young, affluent middle class is expected to create strong growth in demand.
Almost 55 per cent of the population is aged between 21 and 59, says APB.
The firm has been exporting beer to India since 1990, with sales to this market growing by four times since 1996.
"By tapping on AUBL's existing operations and beer brands, APB will be able to quickly penetrate into the affluent and populous Maharashtra where the business climate is most conducive and beer consumption is amongst the highest in India," said the group.
Aurangabad's two breweries in Maharashtra and Goa have an annual production capacity of approximately 250,000 hectolitres. The deal includes an entitlement for APB to increase its stake to 100 per cent by the end of 2008.
APB now owns interests in 26 brewery operations in 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region, including 11 in China.
A joint venture between the Fraser and Neave group and Heineken, APB reported sales of S$1.44 billion (€724m) for 2005.
The acquisition will be funded through a combination of internal resources and external borrowings, said APB in a statement.
Koh Poh Tiong, APB's chief executive, added: "In the last 16 years, our focus was mainly on South East Asia, Indochina, Australasia and China. As our breweries in these markets have shown good growth, it is timely that we look beyond our current markets and set our sights on South Asia for our next wave of regionalization."