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China's moutai maker going to market

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Moutai is China's national drink, like vodka to Russia or sake to Japan  

By CNN's Alex Frew McMillan in Hong Kong

SHANGHAI, China -- A leading maker of China's national tipple plans to sell stock to the public for the first time on Tuesday.

China Kweichow Moutai Distillery Group, based in northern Guizhou, makes moutai - a fiery kind of liquor made from wheat and sorghum that is part whiskey, part wine.

It will sell stock to the public for the first time on July 31, according to Shanghai Securities News.

Moutai is to China what vodka is to Russia or sake to Japan. The "national wine" was served to Richard Nixon on his groundbreaking visit to China in 1972.

The state-owned distiller says its moutai wine invigorates health and, in the case of its "queen wine," protects women against the onset of senility.

Aged up to 80 years

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Some of its brews are aged for up to 80 years to help mellow the flavor, while others are spicy. Moutai is the leading brand of spirit in China, but the company also makes baiju, a higher-end Chinese liquor that can cost $70 a bottle.

The company claims it sells $10 million worth of moutai to overseas buyers each year.

Kweichow Moutai traces its roots in the business back 2,000 years. The modern company traces its origin to 1951, when the Chinese government bought and brought together three small distillers.

Since then, it has expanded to 4,000 workers and has branched out into restaurants and opened operations in Beijing, Shanghai, Hainan and Shenzhen.

The public offering looks to raise $26.6 million (2.2 billion yuan) by selling 65 million shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. It's an 'A share' offering, meaning it's only open to domestic investors.

Kweichow Moutai set the price at $3.79 (31.39 yuan) per share. It wants to use the proceeds to upgrade technology at its Guizhou plant, in Guangxi province.

A liquor war looms in China, where another baiju maker, Swellfun Liquor, says it wants to march into Beijing with its product and boost sales.

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