Global brewer SABMiller Plc said it would be interested in acquiring the African brewing operations of French group Castel if it were available, as the two announced on Monday that they were strengthening their links in Africa.

SABMiller and the privately owned Castel reached a strategic alliance back in 2001 whereby SABMiller took a 20 percent stake in the Paris-based group's beer and soft drinks operations in Africa, and Castel acquired a 38 percent stake in SABMiller's Africa subsidiary.

The two agreed mutual pre-emptive rights over each others' beverage operations in Africa, whereby each has first rights to buy each others' operations if put up for sale, and SABMiller said these rights had now been clarified and amplified.

In the light of our overlap in Africa, we would obviously be interested in acquiring the Castel group's interest in the strategic alliance, said a SABMiller spokesman.

Industry sources said there was no indication that the controlling Castel family might want to sell, but there have been reports in the past that SABMiller would like to buy the Castel family out in a deal worth over 6 billion pounds.

As part of the closer alliance, SABMiller said management will be combined in the last two markets in Africa where they both operate individually with SABMiller managing Nigeria and Castel Angola, in a move that reflects how the two operate in the rest of Africa, outside South Africa and Namibia.

SABMiller shares were up 0.3 percent at 2,339 pence by 1:25 p.m.

(Reporting by David Jones; Editing by)