AN £11 MILLION bottling hall at Magor brewers Interbrew is set to create 38 jobs.

The investment is being part-funded by the National Assem-bly with a £3.3 million regional selective assistance grant.

The current workforce of 462 will swell to around 500 when the hall opens early next summer.

The 4,350 sq m bottling hall forms part of a £15 million investment programme for 2003 which includes boilers, storage tanks, centrifuges and refrigerators.

The new infrastructure is needed to cope with what the company describes as a "huge increase" in demand for 25cl and 33cl bottles of Stella Artois - the UK's biggest-selling premium lager brand.

The hall will be capable of filling 50,000 bottles per hour, and will be the fastest non-returnable bottle line and flash pasteurisation unit in northern Europe.

Interbrew's general manager at Magor, Alan Fernandes, said: "The investment represents the largest single capital investment Interbrew has made anywhere in Europe this year, and demonstrates the value the company places on the brewery and the workforce here.

"The company was considering installing a new bottling line at a brewery in Belgium, but a number of factors swayed the decision in favour of Magor, including the growth of Stella Artois in the UK and the need for additional bottling capacity for the home market.

"Being awarded the grant from the Assembly certainly played a valuable role in securing the investment for Magor."

Minister for Economic Development and Transport Andrew Davies said: "Wales is a great place to do business, as this multi-million-pound investment clearly shows.

"The Assembly wants to improve the Welsh economy, and its £3.3m grant towards this new facility demonstrates how we are delivering quality new jobs and bringing state-of-the-art technology to Wales."

Interbrew plans a further phase of development at Magor and has earmarked an additional £14.5 million to complete it by the end of 2006.

By then the capacity of the plant will be increased by about 25 per cent to almost a billion pints per year. An additional 100 workers could be recruited to deliver this production target.