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Boutique brewery up for sale

Traffic passes in front of Phnom Penh’s Kingdom Breweries Cambodia head office
Traffic passes in front of Phnom Penh’s Kingdom Breweries Cambodia head office. Vireak Mai

Boutique brewery up for sale

Leopard Capital is seeking a buyer for its majority share in Kingdom Breweries Cambodia, the private equity fund announced yesterday.

Leopard Capital says the sale of its 55 per cent stake in the boutique brewery, located on Phnom Penh’s riverfront, is part of the fund’s strategy to exit all investments by 2016

“LCF (Leopard Capital Fund) is seeking a strategic investor that is committed to financing and developing Kingdom through its next stage of growth,” a statement posted on the firm’s website reads.

The Leopard Capital Fund was established in 2008 with an eight-year life span. The $34 million fund, investments of which include holdings in local bank Acleda and telecommunications company Mobitel, first invested in Kingdom Breweries in 2009 and began operations in the factory the following year.

The fund must exit all investments by the 2016 deadline.

“Leopard Capital is proud to have created Cambodia’s best beer and first gold medal winner in international competition. We look forward to passing Kingdom to an investor ready take it to new heights,” Leopard Capital CEO Douglas Clayton says in the statement.

Targeting a niche boutique market with its pilsner and dark larger, Kingdom Breweries’ production capacity is dwarfed by the country’s larger brewers, according to a 2012 report on the industry by Tong Yang Securities (Cambodia).

Cambrew, the maker of Angkor beer; Cambodia Breweries, products of which include Anchor and ABC beer; and Khmer Brewery, which produces Cambodia Beer, all produce mass-market products.

While there might be a bigger market in the future for premium brands, demand for now is low, according to Cambrew regional sales manager Cheang Kuan Chew.

“I don’t think the volumes are high enough. There is a market, but I don’t think it is very high,” he said.

Kingdom Breweries was estimated to have a 0.5 per cent share of the Cambodian beer market, according to the Tong Yang report, while the country’s three largest beer makers are estimated to have more than 85 per cent of the market.

In an interview with the Post in 2013, Brian Brunt, who launched Brunty's Cider in Cambodia that same year, took over part of Kingdom Breweries’ bottling production line after sinking sales from the beer maker.

“Their sales had gone down a bit, and their bottle sales were not up at all,” he said in a June 2013 interview. “We came down and offered X dollars per case, which is three to four times more than what they’d make on beer bottles.”

Former Kingdom Breweries CEO Peter Brongers said yesterday that the microbrewery had shifted direction after he left in 2011, focusing more on mass-market beer with its Kingdom Gold and Kingdom Max varieties in an attempt to compete with its bigger competitors.

“It is really a pity that they left the idea of making a craft boutique beer,” Brongers said. “I think with the right new owner who has more financial flexibility than Leopard you can do beautiful things with the brand.”

Leopard CEO Douglas Clayton could not be reached.

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