AB InBev Judge Agrees to Suspend Modelo Antitrust Lawsuit

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI) and the U.S. were granted their request to suspend until March 19 the government’s lawsuit seeking to block the brewer from buying Grupo Modelo SAB.

A federal judge in Washington agreed to delay the litigation after the parties told the court this week they’re in talks that may lead to a settlement of the case.

U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts in Washington said yesterday that if the case settles “in whole or in part” the department should quickly file a notice of dismissal. If there’s no deal, the parties must file a proposed scheduling order for bringing the case to trial.

AB InBev and the Justice Department said the government is looking at whether a revised plan to sell control of all Modelo brands in the U.S., and a brewery in Mexico, to Constellation Brands Inc. (STZ) would allay antitrust concerns. A break in the proceedings “would be beneficial” for a potential resolution, according to a Feb. 20 filing by the parties.

The revised deal, submitted on Feb. 14, is aimed at appeasing U.S. authorities, who sued to block AB InBev’s proposed $20.1 billion purchase of the rest of Mexico City-based Modelo, arguing the merger would hurt competition and lead to higher prices. AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, controls almost half the U.S. beer market, while Corona is the country’s biggest imported brand.

The case is U.S. v. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, 13-cv-00127, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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