Beer Distributors in Row Over Heineken Rights

The official distribution of premium beer Heineken has sparked a dispute between two local companies, with full-page advertisements taken out in local newspapers to publicize the spat.

After Attwood Import Export (AIE) took out a series of ads this month, which reprinted a Commerce Ministry document announcing that Cambodia Brewery Ltd. (CBL) had taken over from AIE as the official local retailer of the Dutch beer, the firm said it had a grievance because it was not consulted over the handover.

Cans of Heineken beer stacked on a shelf at a convenience store in Phnom Penh earlier this week (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Cans of Heineken beer stacked on a shelf at a convenience store in Phnom Penh earlier this week (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“AIE is not contesting the exclusive right of Heineken Asian Pacific Export Pte. Ltd to brew, import and distribute the Heineken Lager in Cambodia. However, AIE would have expected to be consulted in time, as the long term partner of the Heineken brand in Cambodia,” the firm said in a statement.

AIE, the distributor of the Hennessey and Smirnoff brands in Cambodia, was the sole distributor of the beer for 17 years until Heineken extended its 33.5 percent share in CBL to a 100 percent acquisition.

“While AIE understands and respects the fact that HAPE has taken over full ownership of Cambodia Brewery Ltd. (CBL) in Cambodia and thus would take over the distribution of Heineken itself, AIE has not expected that its commitment to the brand would be neglected without serious consideration of its long-term partner AIE’s successful distribution operation for Heineken,” the statement added.

CBL said it officially became the sole licensee of the Heineken brand on January 1 this year and, on the advice of the Commerce Ministry, is looking to “resolve the dispute amicably.”

“[B]oth Attwood Import & Export Co, Ltd and Cambodia Brewery Limited (“CBL”) have been advised to resolve the dispute amicably. CBL’s priority is therefore to work with the relevant parties to achieve this aim,” the company’s general manager, Roland Bala, said in a statement.

Heineken Asian Pacific Export did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2010, the Netherlands-based Center for Research on Multinational Corporations released a report stating that Heineken—together with its partner brands such as Anchor and ABC beers—was the market leader in Cambodia.

Citing figures from the Economic Institute of Cambodia, the report also said that 15 percent of imported beer was made by Heineken Breweries, but only 12 percent of total imports came from official channels, and suggested that AIE had not always brought in the product legally.

“This implies that beer imports from Heineken sources have not always been imported in accordance with tax regulations of the Cambodian government,” the report said.

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