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Beer maker Heineken strikes deal to expand in China

In this file photo dated on March 30, 2018, bottles of Heineken beer are photographed in Washington, USA.(AP Photo/J. David Ake)

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Heineken, the world's second-largest brewer, has struck a deal to expand in China, the world's biggest beer market.

Heineken said Friday it is buying a 40 percent stake in the company that controls China's biggest beer maker, China Resources Beer. It will invest $3.1 billion for the stake and set up a venture.

It says that Chinese drinkers are embracing imported beers and that CRB, a state-controlled company that produces the best-selling Snow lager, lacks a premium overseas brand.

The stake in CRB would significantly boost Heineken's distribution reach.

Heineken is trying to keep pace with Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is the world's largest brewing company and in 2016 added to its heft by taking over its closest rival, SABMiller. AB InBev is worth 174 billion euros ($202 billion), multiple times Heineken's 51 billion euros.

Big brewers in the U.S. and Europe are looking for new customers in developing markets, where growth in demand is stronger and there is often less competition from craft brewers.

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