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Budvar Trying To Claim Budweiser Rights

Czech brewery has been fighting with Anheuser-Busch over the Budweiser brand and said the sale to InBev will not affect the legal battle.

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- The Czech state-owned brewery Budejovicky Budvar NP is not likely to be sold by the current government, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said Tuesday.

The brewery has been fighting a long legal battle with U.S. beer giant Anheuser-Busch Cos. over the Budweiser brand, and last year the Czech government announced it would work to prepare Budvar for privatization.

First the brewer has to be transformed into a joint-stock company from the current national enterprise to make the privatization legally possible. That has yet to happen.

Topolanek said Tuesday after meeting Agriculture Minister Petr Gandalovic, whose ministry is in charge of the state-owned company, that it was not likely that his government, whose term in office is to end in mid-2010, would be able to complete Budvar's privatization.

Earlier this month, Anheuser-Busch agreed to a $52 billion takeover bid from the Belgian brewer InBev SA, in a deal that will create the world's largest brewer.

Budvar considers itself the maker of the original Budweiser, but it has exported its lager to the U.S. under the name Czechvar since 2001 due to trademark issues. Budvar has fought with Anheuser-Busch in several countries over use of the famous Budweiser brand, to which both companies claim a historical right.

Budvar said the sale of Anheuser-Busch will not affect the legal battle.

"A different owner does not change anything," said Petr Samec, a Budvar spokesman.

Trade Minister Martin Riman has put Budvar's value at up to 30 billion koruna ($2.1 billion).