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Asia300

China's biggest brewer seeks deals with foreign brands: CEO

China Resources Beer looks to move upmarket amid changing consumer tastes

China Resources Beer CEO Hou Xiaohai expressed eagerness to sell global brand beer in China.

HONG KONG -- China Resources Beer is negotiating partnerships with foreign breweries as it sharpens its focus on premium beer, according to CEO Hou Xiaohai.

With more Chinese consumers drinking foreign beer brands, especially younger people, overseas tie-ups will help China's biggest brewer move upmarket, Hou told an earnings conference here Wednesday.

CR Beer, whose leading brand is Snow beer, seeks to acquire premium global brands, the CEO said, adding that the company has made contact "with all sorts of industry peers."

Hou declined to comment on rumors that CR Beer is in talks to buy Dutch brewer Heineken's Chinese business, as reported by Reuters earlier this month.

Although the Chinese beer market remains the world's largest, it shrank for four straight years through 2017, as the economy slowed and consumer tastes grew more diverse.

China is the world's most-watched beer market, Hou said, adding that his company will work to raise its domestic market share from the current level of just below 30%.

CR Beer's sales in 2017 rose 3.6% on the year to 29.7 billion yuan ($4.7 billion), helped by brisk sales of midprice and premium products. Net profit soared 87% to 1.17 billion yuan on the purchase of SABMiller's 49% stake in their dissolved joint venture.

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