RANGOON — The Denmark-based Carlsberg Group will begin brewing beer in Burma from March, in a joint venture with local firm Myanmar Golden Star, the latter’s chairman Thein Tun told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
Carlsberg and Myanmar Golden Star (MGS) signed an agreement in early 2013 to build a brewing facility and distribute the well-known beer in country. Carlsberg owns 51 percent of the joint venture Myanmar Carlsberg Co. Ltd., according to a January 2013 announcement.
“We’ll produce three varieties of Carlsberg beer in March. The investment will be about US$70 million,” Thein Tun said.
The MGS chairman, known as “Pepsi” Thein Tun ever since he brought the American beverage giant to Burma in the 1990s, said the company will produce canned, bottled and draught beer at a facility in a Pegu Division industrial zone.
“We can’t say right now that we have any expectations for the market,” he said.
In a statement from the Carlsberg Group in January 2013, Roy Bagattini, senior vice president of Carlsberg in the Asia region, said political reforms at the time had prompted the company’s move into Burma’s largely untapped market.
“We have followed the developments in Myanmar closely and are encouraged by the recent political developments in the country,” he said.
“We believe that the timing is right for us to invest in the country. We expect that the Myanmar beer market will grow strongly in coming years as the economy expands. MGS Breweries is one of the leading soft drinks producers in Myanmar and a partner we have known for many years. This partnership is a pivotal development in expanding our presence in the country.”
The MGS conglomerate was incorporated in 1989 and today is comprised of six fully owned companies and six joint ventures. Sanctions forced Pepsi out of the country in 1997, but MGS brought the US firm back to set up operations in Burma again last year.
Like many other foreign companies’ products, Carlsberg beer cans can be found on some store shelves, often having arrived overland via Thai border crossings. Though the Myanmar Investment Commission has approved joint ventures for a handful of foreign brewers including Heineken over the last two years, those operations have not yet begun.
A spokesperson from City Mart Holdings said Carlsberg would have a tough fight on its hands in a market dominated by the military-owned Myanmar Brewery and its signature Myanmar Beer brand.
“As far as I remember, Carlsberg was sold in Myanmar starting around 1996, but they left here before 2000. … At that time, Myanmar Beer also began distributing in the market,” she said.
“But now Myanmar Beer has strong market share and there are also others like Dagon and Mandalay Beer in the market, so Carlsberg will have to compete with them,” she said.
Carlsberg was founded in 1847. Export of Carlsberg beer began in 1868, and the company is today the world’s fourth largest brewer.