Who is the real winner in Heineken's deal to crack open China?

The Dutch brewer is trying to catch up with rivals AB InBev and Carlsberg in China but investors may remember SABMiller how teamed up with the same Chinese beer maker, and struggled. Meanwhile CR Beer has finally sealed a premium beer license.

As Heineken toasts its deal with China's largest brewer to boost its presence in the world’s biggest beer market, it would do well to study the fate of its rivals in the Middle Kingdom.

On the surface, Heineken’s agreement to buy 40% of China Resources Beer CR Beer's holding company for HK$24.35 billion $3.1 billion looks like a win-win for both sides.

Heineken has the brands but not the scale in China while CR Beer probably has the best distribution platform in the market via its 91 breweries, but not the premium brands. The deal comes as China’s burgeoning middle class crave more imported beers.

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