Brewer Budvar Boosts Annual Production

State-owned Czech brewery -- which has been fighting a legal battle over the Budweiser brand -- raised production by 4.5 percent despite global economic problems.

PRAGUE (AP) -- State-owned Czech brewery Budvar -- which has been fighting a long legal battle over the Budweiser brand -- said Tuesday it boosted its annual production by 4.5 percent despite global economic problems.

Budejovicky Budvar NP said it produced 1.312 million hectoliters (34.7 million gallons) of beer in 2008, compared with 1.253 million hectoliters (33.1 million gallons) the previous year.

Exports were down 1 percent at 581,522 hectoliters (15.4 million gallons), still the second highest number in the brewer's history following the previous record year, the company said in a statement. Budvar exported its beer to 54 countries last year.

"Given the economic development in recent months, we are satisfied with the export results," said Renata Pankova, head of Budvar's export sales department. She said the brewer managed to maintain its position in key markets, including Britain and Germany.

Financial details for 2008 are expected to be announced in April, Budvar spokesman Petr Samec said.

Budvar fought for years with American brewer Anheuser-Busch in a number of countries over use of the famous Budweiser brand, to which both companies claim a historical right. Anheuser-Busch was taken over by Belgian brewer InBev last year to form Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest beer company. Budvar said the sale did not affect the legal battle.

The Czech government began a process that could lead to Budvar's eventual sale. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, however, said it was not likely that his government, whose term in office ends in mid-2010, would be able to complete Budvar's privatization.

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