International brewer SABMiller said it had signed a joint venture deal with Coca-Cola Amatil to import, market and distribute premium beer brands in Australia.
SAB said the 50-50 venture, which will be known as Pacific Beverages, will combine its own marketing expertise with Coca-Cola Amatil's (CCA) comprehensive sales and distribution infrastructure.
The deal should put SAB in a better position to profit from Australia's strongly growing market for premium beer.
The firm said this market had grown by 15 percent per year over the past five years, driven specifically by imported premium brands.
The Pacific Beverages venture is expected to be operational by Christmas this year and will sell SAB's Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell and Miller Genuine Draft beers. André Parker, managing director of SAB's Africa and Asia division, predicted the deal would make SAB a "formidable contender" in Australia.
The firm said Pacific Beverages would also benefit from the leadership of Ari Mervis, who was recently managing director of SAB in Russia. SAB beer volumes grew 150 per cent in Russia during Mervis' four years there, albeit in a strongly emerging beer market generally.
News of the joint venture in Australia will also be a welcome lift for SAB after it recently reported ongoing problems on the mature US beer market.
Sales of Miller to retailers were down 2.4 per cent over the second quarter compared to the same time last year, the brewer said, adding that "Miller Lite brand volumes were level. The trading environment remains highly competitive".