Largest Czech brewery wants to buy Jihoceske

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PRAGUE -- Plzensky Prazdroj, the Czech Republic's largest brewer, has made a takeover offer to Jihoceske pivovary. The south Bohemian brewery produces about one million hectalitres of beer annually, making it the Czech Republic's fifth largest brewery.

Pilsen-based Plzensky Prazdroj, which already controls 22% of the Czech beer market with the Urquell, Gambrinus, and Primus brands, wants a majority interest, but is reportedly willing to settle for a 30 to 40% interest in the short-term.

For more than a year, Jihoceske pivovary has considered partnerships with several domestic and foreign breweries. Anheuser-Busch, Bass International Brewers and Carlsberg have made initial bids to HSBC Investment Bank for a stake in the brewer.

The predators' real interest, however, is the Budvar (Budweiser) trademark, as the Jihoceske brewery is set to merge with the Budvar brewery. Management of Jihoceske pivovary says it wants any merger deals to be settled after its takover bid of the Budvar brewery has been settled, but Plzensky Prazdroj argues that there is no need to wait.

The Czech Ministry of Agriculture said earlier last year that the privatization of the Budvar brewery would not continue until the trademark dispute with Anheuser-Busch has been resolved and that the proposed merger of the Budvar and Jihoceske breweries could be called off if Anheuser-Busch is chosen as Jihoceske pivovary's partner.

The trademark dispute with Anheuser-Busch, based in St. Louis, involves use of the trademark in territories outside North America and Europe, particuarly the lucrative Asian markets.

Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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