UPDATE 1-MillerCoors may have to halt Minnesota sales

MINNEAPOLIS, July 13 Wed Jul 13, 2011 2:45pm EDT

MINNEAPOLIS, July 13 (Reuters) - MillerCoors, the combined U.S. operations of SABMiller PLC (SAB.L) and Molson Coors Brewing Co (TAP.N), may be forced to halt sales of its beers in Minnesota due to the state government shutdown, a state spokesman said on Wednesday.

MillerCoors, the second largest brewer in the United States, failed to get its brand license to sell 39 brands in Minnesota renewed before a government shutdown over a budget impasse began with the new fiscal year on July 1.

"Without that brand label registration, their distribution and sales aren't allowed to continue," Doug Neville, a state public safety department spokesman, said.

The registration allows the manufacturing, distribution and sales of the MillerCoors brands in the state, meaning that they would also have to be pulled from liquor stores, bars and restaurants where they are sold, Neville said.

"We reached out to MillerCoors to talk to them about their brand label registration being expired and requested from them a plan to discontinue distribution and sales of their products in the state," Neville said. "We are hoping within a couple of days to have a clear idea what that looks like."

Samuel Adams brewer Boston Beer Co Inc's (SAM.N) registration is good until the end of the year, according to a company spokeswoman. Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR) did not have an immediate comment.

MillerCoors spokesman Julian Green said on Wednesday the company was working with the state to resolve the situation.

"With 39 brands at stake in one of our largest markets in the country during the most important selling period, in the summer, we do not take the business of ensuring proper state licenses lightly," Green said.

Green said MillerCoors had filed paperwork to renew the three-year brand licenses by the June 13 due date, actually overpaying initially, and submitted a second check by June 27. The renewal was never issued and neither check was processed, he said.

The renewal fees amount to $30 per brand, or $1,170. MillerCoors' beers range from Miller Lite and Coors Light to Blue Moon, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell.

"We believe it is unfortunate that we and other state licensees including retailers and other brands are being impacted by the state shutdown when we followed all applicable laws," Green said. (Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

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