Thu, Mar 21, 2002 - Page 17 News List

Tsingtao, Sanyo Whisbih say they're beer buddies

BLOOMBERG , TAIPEI

A worker operates the giant fermentation units at Tsingdao's brewery in China's eastern port city of Qingdao. Tsingdao wants to become one of the world's top-10 makers of beer within the next year.

PHOTO: AFP

Tsingtao Brewery Co (青島酒廠), China's largest brewer, plans to build a NT$1.5 billion (US$43 million) brewery in southern Taiwan with Sanyo Whisbih Group (三洋維士比), taking advantage of new investment rules to break into the nation's alcohol market.

The partners aim to start production at the brewery by June next year, said an official at Taiwan Tsingtao Beer Co, a unit set up by Sanyo Whisbih in 2000. Taiwan Tsingtao spokesman Peter Tsai was unavailable to comment on the investment, which was reported earlier by Chinese-language media.

Tsingtao's entry into the nation's beer market is one of the first by a foreign brewery following termination in January of the alcohol-production monopoly held by the state-controlled Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Board (公賣局).

The government is cutting tariffs on hundreds of goods and opening its market to foreign competition, including from China, as a result of its entry into the WTO in January.

The government had previously restricted trade and investment links with China to protect local industries and prevent the economy from becoming over-reliant on China -- a political foe that claims Taiwan as part of its own territory, which it has vowed to take back by force.

Last month, Haier Group Co (海爾), China's No. 1 home-appliance maker, and Taiwan's Sampo Corp (聲寶) agreed to sell each other's products after Taiwan lifted a ban on imports of more than 1,000 Chinese industrial products such as cameras and rice cookers.

Sanyo Whisbih, which will own about 60 percent of the brewery venture in Pingtung County, Taiwan's southern-most county, makes food supplements and drinks such as milk-teas. Tsingtao, based in Qingdao in eastern China, spent about 610 million yuan (US$74 million) to buy rivals and build new plants last year.

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