Carlsberg, SABMiller and India's United Breweries (UB) worked together clandestinely to fix beer prices in India, Reuters has reported exclusively. The companies exchanged commercially sensitive data in order to carry on with the price fixing for as long as 11 years, the report said on Friday.

The agency said it has seen a report prepared by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) after an investigation launched following a raid in 2018. The three brewers above account for 88 percent of India's $7 billion beer market.

Beer
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'We Should Avoid Getting Caught'

According to CCI officials, if the commission goes ahead and finalizes the report and ratify the findings, the brewers could face up to $250 million in fines. The executives at these brewers collectively strategized price increases in several states, the report says, citing conversations, WhatsApp messages and e-mails.

The executives used the All India Brewers Association (AIBA) as a "common platform" to carry on with the discussions that led to the formation of the cartel, the report said. "We should avoid getting caught," AIBA's director general wrote in an e-mail in 2016 to executives of the three companies, the agency says.

Read the full report here.

The agency said CCI officials did not respond to queries while AIBA and Carlsberg also declined to comment. United Breweries said it has cooperated with the investigation while Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns SABMiller, said it takes antitrust compliance seriously.

Robust Growth in India Beer Industry

Though India's beer market contracted in 2020 due to the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, it has seen consistent growth over the last decade and a half. The beer industry in the country saw consumption rising from about 100 million cases in 2005 to more than 300 million cases in 2019. India's beer industry's size is estimated to be over 320 million cases per annum, according to the Financial Express.