• U.S. Justice Department issues request for more information
  • Brewers still expect to close deal in second half of year

U.S. antitrust officials began an in-depth investigation of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s planned takeover of SABMiller Plc, seeking additional information related to the deal.

The Justice Department’s antitrust division recently issued a so-called second request to the beer maker, according to the company. The inquiry, a move by the Justice Department that was expected by the companies, lengthens the review of how the combination will affect competition and prices for beer.

“As expected with a transaction of this nature, we received a second request for information from the DOJ,” said Marianne Amssoms, a spokeswoman for AB InBev. “We continue to work closely with DOJ to provide them additional information.”

The Justice Department is among competition authorities across the world who must sign off on the $110 billion takeover that combines the world’s biggest brewers. The enlarged company would account for about half the industry’s profit and almost a third of all beer sold worldwide.

To resolve antitrust concerns in the U.S., AB InBev, the maker of Budweiser, has agreed to sell SABMiller’s 58 percent stake in MillerCoors to joint-venture partner Molson Coors Brewing Co. By selling that stake, AB Inbev says the merger won’t harm competition in the U.S. because its market share will remain the same.

Justice Department spokesman Mark Abueg declined to comment on the investigation.

Beer Distribution

Craft brewers have raised concerns about AB InBev’s control over beer distribution to consumers. An association representing the brewers told a Senate hearing in December that the Justice Department should require AB InBev to divest its company-owned wholesalers and change conduct that it says restricts distribution of rival products.

Distribution agreements, however, aren’t a key focus of the Justice Department’s review, according to a person familiar with the matter. AB InBev and SABMiller still expect to close the transaction in the second half of this year, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the process isn’t public.

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