CARLSBERG ADDS PIRINSKO PIVO TO ITS PORTFOLIO
The Danish company Carlsberg acquired 67% of the capital of Pirinsko Pivo after the deal was approved by the Competition Protection Committee. The stake was bought on the Bulgarian stock exchange and consisted of the shares of 1,300 small shareholders traded on it. The Blagoevgrad-based brewery was re-registered as a public company by the State Securities Exchange Commission (SSEC) last July. In 2000, its shareholders voted for writing the brewery off the SSEC register, profiting by the then valid right to close companies which capital was below BGN200,000. Pirinsko Pivo is the second brewery which majority stake is acquired by Carlsberg. In July, 59% of the capital of Shumensko Pivo was sold to the Danish company. Currently, the two Bulgarian breweries account for 20% of the domestic beer market. For comparison, the biggest beer producer in the country, Brewinvest (which produces Zagorka, Ariana, Stolichno) controlled 26.2% of the market in the first half of the year. Pirinsko Pivo held a 12% share of the market, which is a 3-point growth compared to 2001.The Blagoevgrad-based brewery is run by managers of Zlaten Lev Holding who keep 25.5% of the company's shares despite the changes in the ownership. They took the management when the company was in a poor condition, but right now it is among the breweries with the fastest growing sales. It sold 4.7 million litres of beer in 1997 and 41 million in 2001. Investments made in the past three years amount to BGN6MN, most of which in the bottling line of the company. Pirinsko Pivo reported a BGN2MN profit for the first half of 2002. Therefore, it is not surprising that a leading European producer added it to its portfolio. Carlsberg Breweries owns 90 breweries in 45 countries and sells products in more than 150 states. Carlsberg may also show interest in other Bulgarian breweries such as Bolyarka, which will help it become a leader on the local market. Considering that Bulgaria is the Europe's 20th beer consumer with 54 litres of beer consumed per capita every year, its market logically attracts giants like Heineken and Carlsberg.The stock market future of Pirinsko Pivo is still vague. The company may merge with Shumensko Pivo, but in this case the Shoumen-based brewery will need to become a public company too. According to the Law on Securities, if two companies are about to merge and one of them is traded on the stock exchange, the other should be listed there as well. This requirement will be neglected, if Pirinsko Pivo is written off the register of public companies for a second time. Then Carlsberg will have to raise its stake to 90 per cent. Of course, the two breweries may also remain independent companies.However, another brewery may be written off the register of public companies in end-November. That's the Sofia-based Ariana, for which Brewinvest made a tender offer. The Cyprian company owns 221,394 Ariana shares which form 92.97% of its capital. They were acquired through transactions on the stock exchange signed between December 1997 and May 2002. The price offered per one share to the other minority shareholders of the company is BGN12.90. The MacCap Brokers investment intermediary will be paid BGN20,000 for the implementation of the deal.