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Last Updated: Friday, 6 October 2006, 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK
SABMiller 'top China beer seller'
Snow Beer
The Chinese beer industry is growing rapidly
Brewing giant SABMiller says it is now the largest brewer in China by both sales volume and brewing capacity.

The world's second biggest brewer, it operates in the Chinese marketplace through its 49% stake in China Resources Snow Breweries (CR Snow).

SABMiller said CR Snow's share of the Chinese beer market had risen to 14.9% in the first six months of 2006.

This puts it ahead of the previous Chinese beer leader, Tsingtao, which has a market share of 13.9%.

'Hard slog'

The Chinese brewing industry is now growing at a rate of 13% per year, helped by the country's fast-growing economy and greater urbanisation in its eastern cities.

In 2005 it moved ahead of the US to become the world's biggest beer market, with annual consumption of 300 million hectolitres.

China now accounts for about 18% of London-based SABMiller's beer volumes, but less than 5% of profits due to much lower margins that the firm's traditional Western markets.

"China will not overnight become a very profitable beer market, it will be a hard slog," said SABMiller's managing director of Asia and Africa, Andre Parker.

SABMiller's main brands include Castle, Miller, Pilsner Urquell and Peroni.

Its best selling Chinese beer is called Snow.

SABMiller's main overseas rival in China is Budweiser-owner Anheuser-Busch, which has a 27% stake in Tsingtao.

US-based Anheuser-Busch is the world's third biggest brewer, behind SABMiller in second place and first place InBev, a Belgian-Brazilian business.

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