Anheuser-Busch InBev, the maker of Budweiser and Hoegaarden beers, has got the green signal to resume sale of its products in the national capital for the time being, after a tribunal in New Delhi put on hold a sales ban last year.
In July 2019, AB InBev was banned from selling its products for three years over allegations of tax evasion. AB InBev had challenged the decision in the Delhi High Court, which trashed the appeal against the ban, asking the brewer to approach the tribunal for further relief. The ban was later reduced to 18 months.
The city tribunal on February 4 issued a single page order, wherein it stayed the ban as the company’s plea was being heard. The next hearing is on February 25. Multiple reports have cited that the global brewing giant would continue to appeal against the ban. The company argues that it was not informed about the issue beforehand and did not receive adequate notice.
In 2016, the Delhi Excise Department had found that SABMiller, acquired by AB InBev in 2016, was allegedly using duplicate barcodes on beer bottles supplied to city retailers to pay lower tax.
“We are committed to operating with integrity and ethics, and remain excited about our business in India,” reports quoted an official AB InBev India spokesperson as saying, encouraged by the stay order. AB InBev, whose beers include Budweiser and Hoegaarden, is the second biggest player in India’s $7 billion market with 17.5 per cent share, according to estimates by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.
Incidentally, December fared well for alcohol manufacturers as people consumed liquor worth around Rs 1,000 crore this year, suggest reports. The actual statistics on the sale of bottles via liquor vends, hotels and bars, however, are in the process of compilation.
The number (Rs 1,000 crore) has been arrived at after considering the revenue collected by the excise department in the form of liquor duty. The department’s earnings in terms of liquor duty are estimated to be Rs 465 crore in December, a marginal increase from Rs 460 crore during the same period a year ago.