India: Molson Coors is selling its business

Molson Coors, one of the leading brewing groups in the world, is selling its business in India. According to sources close to the matter, Molson Coors is not happy with the business due to prohibitive legislation concerning alcohol in some Indian states and the current sales slump as a result of restrictions to contain the Coronavirus.

The company entered the market in 2011with a joint venture with Cobra Indian Beer and renamed it as Molson Coors Cobra India. Molson Coors had a 51% stake in the company and Cobra Beer’s founder, British-Indian entrepreneur Lord Karan Bilimoria the rest. The joint venture operated a 175.000 hl brewing facilities in Bihar which had at one point a 50% market share in the beer market in Bihar. However, in 2016 the Bihar government banned all sales of alcohol which caused all breweries in the state to close.

Today, Molson Coors India runs two breweries, one in Ambala (Haryana) and one in Bhankarpur (Punjab). Brands include Miller High Life, Miller Ace, Carling Strong, Thunderbolt, Cobra and Blue Moon.

A Molson Coors’ spokesperson confirmed the intention to sell the business but declined to reveal more details. “That work has been ongoing and we will share more information when a sale occurs. However, we will not engage in speculation and rumours,” he told The Times of India.

Cobra Beer was originally brewed in Bangalore, India and imported and distributed to restaurants in the UK by its founder, Lord Karan Bilimoria shortly after he graduated from the University of Cambridge. In 2009, he teamed up with the US brewer Molson Coors to rescue the company from collapse via a pre-pack administration. He emerged as chairman with a 49.9 per cent stake, while 340 creditors were owed more than GBP 70 million.

Bilimoria promised to repay all Cobra creditors from his share of the dividends which he does up to date. Last week he announced to continue paying off his creditors after collecting a dividend of GBP 4.2 million from his shareholding in the Cobra beer business.

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