(Corrects to show Coke distribution is for Kaiser not former Kirin products)
BRUSSELS, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Heineken, the world’s second largest brewer, denied on Sunday a Brazilian newspaper report, which said that Coca-Cola Brasil had filed a lawsuit seeking to annul Heineken’s 2017 acquisition of Brasil Kirin.
The Valor Economico newspaper said that the filing in a Brazilian court accused the Dutch brewer of designing a sale contract for Brasil Kirin with the intention of breaking the distribution contract it had with Coca Cola.
However, Heineken said it understood the lawsuit from Coca-Cola Brasil and Brazilian Coke bottlers was not threatening the acquisition, which made it the number two player in the country, the world’s third-largest beer market.
Last October, an arbitration tribunal decided Heineken must keep distributing its existing Kaiser products via the Coca-Cola network until March 2022, keeping the dates in the original contract. Heineken had wanted to sell its new and existing brands via its own distribution system.
Heineken said on Sunday it had become aware of the lawsuit through public sources, but believed the suit was not aimed at annulling its 2017 acquisition of Kirin’s business in Brazil.
Coca-Cola Brasil and the Brazilian Coke bottlers, it said were seeking compensation, for Heineken’s unwillingness to transfer its portfolio of beers bought with the Kirin acquisition to the Coke distribution system.
The plaintiffs were challenging certain corporate actions of Heineken, but these actions did not impact the validity of its Brasil Kirin purchase. An arbitration tribunal had already addressed these issues, Heineken said.
Heineken also said the lawsuit did not change its operations in Brazil, including distribution of its Kaiser brands via Coke distributors.
Coca-Cola did not immediately comment on the matter. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Louise Heavens)
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