BANGALORE: SABMiller, the second-largest brewer in India, will get a chance to regain its number one slot in the country's largest beer market when Andhra Pradesh revokes a policy flip-flop that allowed United Breweries race to the top.
The state has decided to end the policy of placing beer orders in line with national market share of different companies, which it introduced last year. It will go back to procuring beer based on consumer preferences in the state from September 1.
Unlike other consumer products, liquor is a state subject.
Andhra Pradesh Beverage Corporation started placing purchase orders based on national demand following a government order in May 2010 that observed that the top two players held 93-95% share in the state's beer market compared to around three-fourths share in other states.
While the idea was to end the duopoly in the market and create more new room for smaller brewers, the policy mostly helped Vijay Mallya's United Breweries, maker of Kingfisher beer, extend its national leadership to Andhra Pradesh.
Analysts now expect the maker of Kingfisher, Sand Piper and London Pilsner beer to hold on to the top slot even after Andhra Pradesh goes back to old purchasing system.
"SABMiller will regain some market share with the policy reversal but I would not be surprised if UB retains leadership in the state," Abneesh Roy, associate director-research at Edelweiss Financial Services, said.
This is because United Breweries now holds double the market share of SABMiller, maker of Fosters, Haywards and Royal Challenge beer, in Andhra Pradesh. UB had almost 60% share in the first quarter ended June.
Their combined share, however, dipped only 5% as smaller brewers such as Carlsberg, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Lilasons, Artos Breweries and Som Breweries increased their market share to 12% from 7%.
This is what has prompted the state to revoke its contentious procurement policy. In a recent order, the Andhra Pradesh government said it received representations that consumer preferences at the national level need not be imposed on those in the state, and that there was only marginal success in achieving the stated objectives of ending the duopoly and encouraging competition.
SABMiller India Director-Marketing Derek Jones said restoration of the beer policy augurs well for the company. "The government order allows the Andhra Pradesh consumer to choose, a principal we support," he said.