Brazil's Ambev says exit from Venezuela limited to plant closure
* Ambev says to keep selling products through Regional
* Move reflects surging costs, sales drop in Venezuela
RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO, March 21 (Reuters) - Cia de Bebidas das Americas SA, Latin America's largest brewer, plans to limit its exit of the Venezuelan market to the closure of a plant and will market its products in the Andean country through a local partner.
The company, known as Ambev, plans to sell some of its brands through Cerveceria Regional, with which it announced a strategic alliance in 2010, according to an emailed statement on Thursday. Ambev is part of Anheuser-Busch InBev SA , the world's biggest brewer.
Ambev on Wednesday began on Monday the closure of a brewery in the Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto following a prolonged slide in sales. Ambev's share of Venezuela's market over seven years dropped to less than 1 percent from 9 percent, preventing it from carrying out necessary investments in its facilities.
"Ambev wants to clarify that it is not stopping work in Venezuela," the statement said.
Apart from battling with local giant Empresas Polar SA for dominance of the thriving Venezuelan beer market, Ambev - which also is Brazil's largest company - had to deal with a surge in inflation, currency controls and rising political uncertainty in the socialist nation.
Shares of the São Paulo-based company shed 0.4 percent to 85.24 reais on Thursday. The stock has gained 18 percent in the past 12 months.
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