• Kyodo News

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Kirin Brewery Co. said Monday it will form a joint venture with British beverage giant Diageo PLC to expand its market share through wider distribution of Diageo’s top-selling alcohol brands in Japan.

Diageo, which makes Guinness beer and Smirnoff vodka, will own a 51 percent stake and Kirin a 49 percent stake in the new company, which is expected to begin operations in June.

The firm, to be named Diageo Kirin Co., will mainly be in charge of nationwide brand marketing and sales support in the Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya metropolitan areas, Kirin said.

Diageo earlier said it planned to break off its long-standing contract with Sapporo Breweries Ltd., which had been importing and selling Guinness in Japan since 1964, and instead pick Kirin as its new partner.

Using its nationwide network, Kirin will distribute Diageo’s brands, including Guinness, Kilkenny and Smirnoff Ice, in addition to existing brands handled by Kirin.

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