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Brewer Asahi bringing Pilsner Urquell, Peroni to China

Japanese group moves further upmarket with brands acquired in AB InBev deal

Asahi acquired the Pilsner Urquell brand earlier this year from Anheuser-Busch InBev.   © Reuters

DALIAN, China -- Asahi Group Holdings will begin distributing two European beer labels under its umbrella in China by next spring as the Japanese group seeks a bigger gulp of the world's biggest market for the drink.

Asahi will market Czech beer brand Pilsner Urquell and Italy's Peroni mostly in Shanghai and other mainland metropolises, targeting younger drinkers who frequent upscale supermarkets and restaurant. Pricing has not been set, but Pilsner Urquell and Peroni are expected to be more expensive than Asahi's Japanese top-seller Super Dry lager, which already costs about three times as much in China as local brands.

Asahi acquired the two brands earlier this year from Anheuser-Busch InBev as part of an asset buyout in five European countries. Global industry leader AB InBev needed to divest a portion of its portfolio to secure its mega-merger with SABMiller. 

Although Pilsner Urquell and Peroni are well known in Europe, they are hard to find in China. But China's thirst for premium beer is growing, even as the overall mainland beer market has shrunk from its 2013 peak. Premium beers -- a price range that includes Super Dry -- are forecast to hold a 13% market share in 2020, up from 6.6% in 2015, data from Euromonitor shows.

Meanwhile, Asahi confirmed last month that it is moving to dissolve its capital tie-up with China's second-ranked Tsingtao Brewery, a partnership launched in 2009. Chinese sales of Super Dry have jumped by roughly 20% by volume, and now the Japanese company aims to leverage the European brands to expand in the market on its own.

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