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Attwood banks on Mexican beer after losing Heineken

Attwood banks on Mexican beer after losing Heineken

Cambodia’s former Heineken beer distributor has signed an agreement to become the exclusive partner of Corona beer in the Kingdom, on the heels of its dispute over Heineken branded-beer that has left fresh stock of the Dutch lager widely unavailable across the country.

“We are very pleased to bring the most popular Mexican beer in the world to Cambodia,” said Attwood Import Export founder Lim Chivv Ho at a signing ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel in Phnom Penh on Friday.

The agreement became effective yesterday.

A messy dispute erupted after Attwood lost the distribution rights for Heineken beer in December of last year to Cambodia Brewery Limited (CBL), a local brewery which has been fully bought out by Heineken over the years.

The dispute has since led to a shortage of Heineken beer in Cambodia, with restaurants, bars, and wholesalers having little luck purchasing new stock.

“We regret that Heineken is currently not widely available in the Cambodia market,” CBL, whose portfolio also includes Anchor and Tiger beers, said in a statement last week.

Attwood had been distributing Heineken for 17 years, and lamented the loss of the lucrative contract, saying in January that it had “invested tremendous effort, time and passion” to make Heineken “the number one premium beer in the Kingdom”.

But the dispute doesn’t appear to have affected other large foreign brands from signing up with Attwood, which also distributes Johnnie Walker whiskey and Hennessey cognac.

“We are really excited to be partnering with Attwood to make Corona a leading International Premium Beer in Cambodia”, said Ricardo Vasques, Vietnam’s general manager of Anheuser Busch InBev, which owns Corona, in a statement.

“For over 20 years these market leaders trust our experience, network and reliability in bringing their products to a fast growing and increasingly brand-conscious consumer market,” Jeffrey Lee, Attwood sales director, said.

Neither Attwood nor AB InBev returned requests for comment from the Post yesterday.

Reacting to the Corona deal yesterday, CBL general manager Roland Bala said CBL “respects all its competitors.”

But Soben Phan, whose firm held Corona’s distribution rights from 2007 to 2014, said Attwood’s new contract was likely due to their loss of Heineken. “I think after they lost their Heineken [contract], they just look for something to replace,” he said.

According to Phan, Corona is traditionally not a big seller in Cambodia: about 1,000 to 1,200 24-bottle cases per month.

“[Corona] is still quite small compared to Heineken. It’s not widely known and [its price] is a bit high,” he said.

Phan added that Attwood was in a better financial position to market the Mexican lager more widely across Cambodia.

As disposable incomes rise across the region, the beer market in Southeast Asia has grown considerably, with Heineken’s Asia Pacific branch reporting “double digit” volume growth in Cambodia and Vietnam across its portfolio of beers in its first quarter report for 2015.

Meanwhile, AB InBev inaugurated its first brewery in Vietnam on May 21st, slated to produce 50 million litres of beer a year.

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