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Carlsberg swallows Feldschlösschen drinks

Another traditional Swiss company, Feldschlösschen, is now in foreign hands Keystone

The Danish brewery, Carslberg, is taking over the drinks division of Switzerland's largest beverages producer Feldschlösschen for SFr870 million ($488.8 million).

A statement from Feldschlösschen headquarters at Rheinfelden on Friday said that Carlsberg was acquiring the entire beer, mineral water and soft drinks businesses.

Carlsberg is also acquiring the Feldschlösschen wine activities with the exception of the Emil Nüesch Wine Cellars in Balgach, for which a new owner is being sought separately.

It added that that for the 2,600 employees affected, as well as for customers in the restaurant and retail sectors, distributors and consumers, the switch from one owner to another would not lead to changes.

Under the terms of the deal, Carlsberg says it intends to introduce and brew the Carlsberg brand as a new premium beer for the Swiss market, strengthen the Feldschlösschen beverages group through investments, establish a centre for the non-alcoholic beers of the Carlsberg group in Rheinfelden and in the medium-term use Switzerland as a bridge into new markets.

Feldschlösschen Beverages will continue to be led by a Swiss management team.

The transaction will be retroactively effective from July 1 and the board of directors does not expect any delay due to regulatory reasons.

Feldschlösschen and Cardinal will remain the two leading brands in the Swiss beer market, and will see their marketing activities strengthened. Regional brands will also be supported as long as customer demand meets “sufficient levels”.

“Carlsberg is the ideal owner of our beverages business,” said Robert Jeker, chairman of Feldschlösschen Holding. “Of all the interested parties, Carlsberg offered the most convincing concept,” he added.

The group managing director of Carlsberg, Nils Andersen, said Carlsberg welcomed Feldschlösschen into the Carlsberg family. “The group has a lot of potential, both in production and distribution, which we look forward to developing together,” he said.

Feldschlösschen-Hürlimann shareholders approved the sale of the beverages business in May after the board of directors had a month earlier announced a strategic re-orientation of the company to concentrate on its real estate activities.

The board said that despite the fact that Feldschlösschen was the market leader in Switzerland, it could not match the dynamics of the international brands and markets.

It said only one of the large producers was in a position to invest the resources needed to assure the survival of brands such as Feldschlösschen or Cardinal in competition with other intensively promoted beers.

It added that such a strategic partnership was even more important due to the fact that beer consumption in Switzerland had been declining for several years.

Since 1990, annual consumption of beer in Switzerland has dropped from over 70 litres to under 60 litres.

Some shareholders had been vociferous in trying to oppose the sale at the May meeting, but approval of the sale was by a clear three to one margin after a five and a half hours session.

Friday’s statement said that after completion of the deal, Hürlimann Immobilien would remain within Feldschlösschen-Hürlimann Holding and be renamed REG Real Estate Group.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR