Japan's Kirin buys $560 mn stake in top Myanmar brewer

Japan's Kirin acquires control of Myanmar Brewery as the beverage giant moves to counter slowing growth at home by tapping Southeast Asian markets

Kirin has acquired control of Myanmar's biggest brewer, a company spokesman said Thursday, as the Japanese beverage giant moves to counter slowing growth at home by tapping Southeast Asian markets.

The firm's Singapore unit purchased a 55 percent stake in Myanmar Brewery Ltd., which makes popular local brands and has an extensive nationwide sales network, from Fraser and Neave for $560 million.

"The beer market in Myanmar is still small, but we expect it will expand," a Japan-based Kirin spokesman told AFP, calling Myanmar Brewery a "promising partner".

Myanmar Brewery, which has about 1,000 employees, reported sales of around $200 million last year.

In a statement announcing the deal, Kirin said it hoped the acquisition would "further strengthen its business in the Southeast Asian region".

Kirin operates a beer business in the Philippines with a local firm and already has operations in Singapore and Vietnam.

Investors in Tokyo cheered the deal, with Kirin shares adding 0.99 percent Thursday afternoon as the broader market turned down.

Foreign companies, including many Japanese firms, are investing in fast-growing Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, as it emerges from decades of isolation as a former junta-run nation.

It offers an attractive prospect, with a growing middle class and one of the largest populations in Southeast Asia of more than 53 million people.

The country clocked GDP growth of 7.7 percent for year ending March, and was targeting further increase of 8.3 percent in the 2015 fiscal year, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Unlike its Western allies, Japan maintained trade ties and dialogue with Myanmar during junta rule, which ended in 2011, saying a hard line could push it closer to China.

At home, Japanese brewers are seeing a slump in beer sales as younger people lose interest in the country's well-known business drinking culture, which boosted sales for decades.

But they will face competition from international rivals in Myanmar.

Dutch beer giant Heineken last month said it has opened a $60 million brewery, with a total capacity of 330,000 hectolitres per year which will directly employ more than 200 local people.