Asahi Breweries Ltd. said Wednesday it has bought a controlling stake in South Korea’s third-largest soft-drink maker and plans to make it a consolidated subsidiary.

The brewery said it purchased 2.6 billion yen worth of additional Haitai Beverage shares July 9, raising its stake in the company to 41 percent from 20 percent and becoming its largest shareholder.

Asahi Breweries said it made the move in a bid to make a full-scale entry into the expanding South Korean soft-drink market.

The Japanese brewery first held a stake in the drink maker in 2000, following the collapse of the Haitai group during the 1997-1998 financial crisis in South Korea.

The majority of Haitai’s board members will come from Asahi Breweries and will serve part-time, said an official of the brewery.

Asahi Breweries will assist Haitai in areas such as new product development, sales promotion and production management, with an emphasis on tea and drinks targeting health-conscious consumers.

Haitai, which holds a 13 percent share of South Korea’s soft-drink market, has three plants and 57 sales offices in the country. The brewery said it hopes to boost Haitai’s sales to 40 billion yen in the fiscal year ending Dec. 31, 2006.

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