Molson Coors sells India business to Inbrew Holdings as alcohol prohibition hurts sales

INDIA – US multinational beverage company Molson Coors has agreed to sell its Indian unit to Singaporeheadquartered Inbrew Holdings in a deal estimated to be worth US$135.8 million.

As part of the deal, Inbrew will acquire Molson Coors’ Indian beer brand Thunderbolt along with selling and distribution rights of its global brands such as Miller, Blue Moon, Carling and Cobra in India.

The acquisition will include three manufacturing facilities with total installed capacity of 16 million unit cases.

“Thunderbolt has a very robust presence in north India, and in several states, it is even the market leader,” Ravi Deol, chairman of Inbrew Holdings said.

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“We now have a good brand and a large distribution platform to take it nationally. We will open nearly 15 breweries in the next three to four years.”

The company could even look at exporting Thunderbolt to China, Thailand and South Asia in the next few years, Deol said.

“When you consider what we set out to do under our revitalization plan and what we were faced with during the year, we accomplished an incredible amount in 2020 and that has given us a tremendous springboard for 2021.”

Molson coors Chief Executive, Gavin Hattersley

A troubled entry

Molson Coors entered India in 2011 with a joint venture between Molson Coors Brewing Company and the Cobra Indian Beer which had brewing facilities in Bihar.

Subsequently, it acquired Mohali-based Mount Shivalik Brewery (MSBL) and its entire portfolio, a deal which also gave it two breweries in Punjab and Haryana.

Molson Coors however ran into a roadblock in India after investing a significant sum in a brewery in Bihar, which is currently mothballed due to subsequent alcohol prohibition.

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With sales plunging due to the prohibition in India, a senior executive said that “Molson’s sale is almost a distress sale by the company as it is not interested in India anymore.”

In a statement, Simon Cox, president and CEO of Molson Coors’ EMEA & APAC division said: “The sale of the India operation will make us a more streamlined organisation, whilst retaining a platform for our brands in India”.

A US$949m full year loss

Earlier, Molson Coors had released its 4th quarter and full year results where it reported a  U.S. GAAP Net Loss of US$949 million ($4.38 per share) primarily driven by US$1.5 billion Europe goodwill impairment charge.

Fourth Quarter Net Sales Revenue for the company decreased 7.7%, primarily driven by Europe and Canada declines resulting from restrictions in the on-premise channel as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the dismal performance, the company’s Chief Executive Gavin Hattersley expressed confidence that the turn round strategy launched in 2019 was working and had “positioned the company well to weather the storms of 2020”.

“We expanded beyond the beer aisle and we set the stage to build our emerging growth division into a US$1 billion revenue business by 2023,” Hattersley said.

He added: “When you consider what we set out to do under our revitalization plan and what we were faced with during the year, we accomplished an incredible amount in 2020 and that has given us a tremendous springboard for 2021.”

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