London: Indian entrepreneur Lord Karan Bilimoria has put Cobra, the beer company he founded 18 years ago, up for sale for an estimated 200 million pounds, a leading daily here claimed on Sunday.
The 46-year-old businessman had drafted in advisers from NM Rothschild to find a new investor in the business, famous for supplying its beer to most of the 10,000 and odd curry houses in Britain, the Sunday Times claimed.
The company, however, declined to comment on the potential sale.
According to the report, the decision to sell comes just two months after Cobra raised 15 million pounds of fresh capital.
Investors, including Bilimoria, provided the funding after the failure of talks to sell a stake to Diageo, the world's biggest spirits producer.
Although Cobra is yet to make a profit, it remains one of the UK's fastest growing beer brands in a market that is in overall decline.
At the retail front, Cobra has sales of 177.6 million pounds. The brand has grown by 28 per cent in the last year, according to the data research firm AC Nielsen, and analysts suggested the company could be worth around 200 million pounds.
Cobra's largest shareholder is Bilimoria, who owns about two-thirds of the shares. The remaining stock is held by hedge funds, business-angel investors and the company's own employees.
Rothschild will begin contacting potential buyers including international brewers with a strong presence in the UK, such as Carlsberg, Heineken, InBev and Molson Coors, in the next few days, the report said.
International brewing concerns such as United Breweries of India, where Cobra has a growing presence, are also likely to be contacted, as are private-equity firms.
According to the report Bilimoria is said to be open-minded about selling a stake in the business or accepting a full takeover. He is keen to secure investment to take Cobra to the next stage of its development.
Bilimoria, who moved to Britain from India when at the age of 19, came up with the idea for Cobra while studying law at Cambridge.
He felt that lagers were too gassy and wanted to design a brand that would be easier to drink with food.
After contracting a brewery in India to help develop his beer, the first crates of cobra were shipped out to Britain in June 1990.
Cobra quickly took off and today it is served in about 95 per cent of all Indian restaurants licensed to sell alcohol.
More recently Cobra has started to be sold in pubs and bars where it is trying to compete with upmarket international brands such as San Miguel and Peroni.
The company regards India as its biggest growth opportunity. Beer consumption is less than one litre per head per year, but it is growing rapidly and Cobra hopes to capitalise on that.
The business has been making beer in India since 2005. It owns one brewery in the country and has contracts with nine other brewing sites.