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UB Group enters global top five in spirits

December 05, 2002 20:05 IST
India's UB Group said on Thursday that it had entered the global top five by sales in the business of distilled alcoholic spirits, and was investing Rs 46 crore (Rs 460 million) this year to boost key brands.

Company officials said UB's spirits division which group's McDowell and Co Ltd and privately-held Herbertsons Ltd, with sales of 26 million cases in the year to March 2002, had 4.3 per cent of the world market, up from 2.6 per cent in 1995 when it entered the top ten.

They said according to the ranking given by industry researcher Impact International last month, the top four are Diageo, which sold 93 million cases; Pernod Ricard with 45 million; Allied Domecq at 44 million; and Bermuda-based Bacardi Ltd which sold 35 million.

"Hopefully next year we can possibly outgrow Bacardi," Anant Iyer, the division's vice-president in charge of strategy, told a news conference.

He said the company would spend Rs 460 million in the year to March 2003 on seven key brands of the division, which is expected to sell 30 million cases in the year.

Earlier, McDowell's shares closed 1.17 per cent up at Rs 43.20 at the Bombay Stock Exchange where the benchmark 30-share index rose by 0.7 per cent.

The spirits division's April-September sales grew 18 per cent over the year-ago period, compared with an industry average of eight per cent, Iyer said. He did not give details.

Company officials said they would not give revenue figures because the group billed its brews in a complex manner to make best use of regulatory issues that differ from state to state.

The division's president, Vijay Rekhi, said joint ventures were planned in Scotland and Sri Lanka to help the group grow globally.

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya's UB Group is led by United Breweries Ltd, which leads the Indian beer market with its Kingfisher brand. The spirits division sells whisky, rum and other liquor from 16 of its own distllieries and 20 associates.

While Kingfisher is sold in 65 countries, the other spirits are largely restricted to India and Nepal and the group hopes to take small but significant steps across the world, Rekhi said.

Britain's Scottish&Newcastle Plc is in the process of investing more than $50 million for a 26 per cent stake in the beer-making flagship, while UB and S&N have a separate joint venture, which is acquiring a string of Indian breweries.