Thai Beverage, the Southeast Asian country's largest brewer and distiller, has won the right to acquire state-owned Chinese white spirits producer Anhui Gujing Group, joining a parade of international firms that are buying into mainland brands to take advantage of its booming beverage business. Talks with the Anhui provincial government, which owns the company, are still continuing. according to a statement by Anhui Gujing Distillery, Anhui Gujing's Shenzhen-listed unit. The company, a competitor of the better known Moutai and Wuliangye, produces four brands of the mainland's most popular type of spirit. Established in 1959, it was put up for sale in January at a minimum of 1.08 billion yuan, and the bidding process officially ended on Tuesday. The statement did not say how much the Thai company offered, or whether other companies made counter bids. The group has a net asset value of 753 million yuan. Its 62.6 per cent owned, publicly traded unit had net profit of 13.15 million yuan last year, up 158 per cent from the previous year. Before that, it posted two years of losses. While it is a relatively small player, Anhui Gujing presents Thai Beverage - principally focused on spirits and beers in its home market - a foothold in the country's surging spirits sector, in which sales jumped 31 per cent to 97.14 billion yuan last year. Thai Beverage, which listed on the Singapore stock exchange in May last year, posted a 3 per cent decline in 2006 profit to around 10.2 billion baht (HK$2.44 billion), on rising costs and weak white spirit sales. The company has been looking to expanding overseas market to boost earnings. In December last year, Diageo, the world's largest liquor maker, agreed to acquire a 43 per cent stake in the parent of Sichuan Swellfun, China's oldest distiller of Chinese white spirits. South Africa-based SABMiller, which has a joint venture with China Resources Enterprises, also announced in December that it was spending 176 million yuan to buy two privately owned breweries in Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. Belgium's InBev, the world's biggest brewery by volume, spent US$5.84 billion to acquire Fujian Sedrin Brewery, the largest brewer in Fujian province early last year, and in the most high-profile deal so far, St Louis-based Anheuser-Busch edged out SABMiller in a bidding war for north China brewer Harbin Brewery Group in 2004.