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Fraser and Neave tries again to tap Myanmar's beer market

Thai Beverage-owned group reconsiders country's growth prospects

A supermarket in Yangon. Fraser and Neave faces rivals such as Heineken as it seeks a second round in Myanmar. (Photo by Yuichi Nitta)

YANGON -- Fraser and Neave has returned to Myanmar three years after closing up shop in the country, lured back by the growth potential in one of Southeast Asia's last untapped beer markets.

The Singapore food and beverage group's joint venture with Myanmar's Shwe Than Lwin recently secured a license from the country's investment commission to make and distribute beer.

F&N's partner is a sprawling conglomerate with hands in businesses ranging from broadcasting to real estate and ties to Myanmar's government and military.

F&N left the country in 2015, selling its stake in Myanmar Brewery -- run jointly with a military-owned company -- to Japan's Kirin Holdings. But the market's growth prospects proved too potent to resist. Myanmar's per-capita beer consumption ranks among the lowest in Asia.

Myanmar Brewery commands an 80% share of the local beer market with brands like Myanmar Beer and Andaman Gold. It also sells its Japanese partner's flagship brew Kirin Ichiban. But European names such as Heineken and Carlsberg have also moved in, heightening competition for drinkers.

F&N, which is majority owned by Chang beer brewer Thai Beverage, will have to contend with locals' preference for low-price beer -- a factor that will test the group's earning power.

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