Two Cambodian alcohol heavyweights, Attwood Import Export Co Limited and Cambodia Brewery Limited, are embroiled in a dispute over the rights to distribute Heineken beer in the Kingdom.
Attwood owns the rights to distribute Johnnie Walker whiskey and Hennessy cognac, among others, while the most well-known products from Cambodia Brewery Limited, or CBL, are Anchor and Tiger beers.
Since 1994, Attwood has exclusively distributed Heineken beer in Cambodia, where it is marketed as a premium European lager.
But, after Attwood’s contract with Heineken’s Asia-Pacific branch, HAPE, ended in December of 2014, it granted the Heineken rights to Cambodia Brewery Limited. HAPE has been steadily increasing its stake in Cambodia Brewery Limited over the years from 33.5 per cent in 2011 to an outright 100 per cent ownership today.
Attwood now claims to have been left in the dark about the decision.
“AIE [Attwood] is not contesting the exclusive right of HAPE to brew, import and distribute the Heineken Lager in Cambodia,” read a statement from Attwood’s legal counsellor.
“However, AIE would have expected to be consulted in time, as the long-term partner of the Heineken brand in Cambodia. Today’s success of the brand in Cambodia as the number 1 premium beer is only due to AIE’s hard work and commitment,” the statement continues.
The dispute, though not legally contested, has drawn intervention from the Ministry of Commerce.
On January 15, the ministry announced that the two companies “should reach an amicable compromise regarding the dispute over the handover of exclusive right to use beer brand Heineken”. The ministry ordered a temporary ban on both companies from advertising its exclusive rights in the media.
In the days before, Cambodia Brewery Limited had published full-page advertisements touting its exclusivity to Heineken distribution.
In a statement, Roland Bala, general manager of Cambodia Brewery Limited, said the company “looks forward to work with the relevant parties to ensure smooth transition of Heineken brand in Cambodia”.
Uk Prachea, secretary of state at the Ministry of Commerce, declined to provide more details.
“It is the business of the two companies,” he said.