Coors Brewers, the UK arm of brewing giant Molson Coors Brewing Company, has appointed Mark Hunter as chief executive.

The move came as Molson Coors announced plans to merge its US brewing business operations with SABMiller.

Hunter, who replaces Peter Swinburn, joined Bass Brewers, which was later taken over by Coors in 1989, and was most recently based in Canada as chief commercial officer. "Mark has extensive knowledge of the US market," said Molson Coors' CEO Leo Kiely. "His sense of how to market brands in different cultures will be key to our Europe and Asia business."

Hunter said his promotion was "a great honour". "The company has a great brand portfolio and great people who are driving enormous change," he said. "My focus will be building on this strong base."

Swinburn takes on the role of CEO at the US arm of the business - Coors Brewing Company, while Kiely will head up the newly merged business, MillerCoors.

SAB and Coors are the second and third-biggest brewers in the US respectively and the joint venture will have a 30% share of the US beer market.

They hope to create a rival to market leader Anheuser-Busch, which has nearly 50% of the market.

MillerCoors requires a commitment from each party to remain in the venture for five years.

The deal, which is subject to approval, is set to go through in 2008.

Last month Coors Brewers said it was putting £11m behind Coors Light to overhaul its image and give it a new taste.