updated 4/3/2007 5:47:28 PM ET 2007-04-03T21:47:28

Anheuser-Busch plans to double distribution in China will include a new brewery in that nation’s Guangdong province, the company said Tuesday.

The St. Louis-based beer maker will expand Budweiser distribution to an additional 100 Chinese cities, making it potentially available to 150 million new beer drinkers. Anheuser-Busch also said it will introduce Harbin premium brands to 33 new markets in 2007.

“As the largest-volume and fastest-growing beer market in the world, China remains one of our most important international priorities,” said August A. Busch IV, president and chief executive officer of Anheuser-Busch Cos.

He noted that the premium and “super-premium” categories that include brands like Budweiser and Harbin are growing faster than the rest of the industry “and have tremendous long-term potential.”

The new brewery in Foshan, China, is expected to be completed by late next year and cost $63 million.

As the U.S. beer market has flattened in recent years, Anheuser-Busch has increasingly sought growth overseas.

China’s beer market surpassed the U.S. in 2002 as the world’s biggest. It grew nearly 15 percent last year, the third straight year of double-digit volume growth.

Anheuser-Busch began brewing in China in 1995 with a facility in the city of Wuhan. In 2004, Anheuser-Busch edged out London-based rival SABMiller PLC in a bidding war for north China brewer Harbin Brewery Group Ltd., a century-old beer maker.

A year later, Anheuser-Busch nearly tripled its equity stake in China’s Tsingtao Brewery Co., China’s biggest brewer. The brewery now has a 27 percent stake in Tsingtao.

Anheuser-Busch has a 48.4 percent share of the U.S. beer market. In addition to its presence in China, the company owns a 50-percent stake in Grupo Modelo, Mexico’s leading brewer.

Shares of Anheuser-Busch rose 36 cents, or 0.7 percent, to close at $51.06 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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