- EU says asset sales ensure consumers ‘aren’t worse off’
- Deal could have led to higher beer prices, regulator says
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV won European Union approval for its $106 billion takeover of SABMiller Plc after agreeing to offload brands to allay antitrust concerns over a deal to combine the world’s two biggest brewers.
The European Commission said Tuesday that the proposed sale of SABMiller’s Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime beer brands to Asahi Group Holdings Ltd. as well as the divestment of Pilsner Urquell and other brands in central and eastern Europe will ensure “EU consumers aren’t worse off.”
“Europeans buy around 125 billion euros ($139.3 billion) of beer every year, so even a relatively small price increase could cause considerable harm to consumers,” EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.
AB InBev, based in Leuven, Belgium, is doing all it can to secure regulatory approval around the globe. It agreed to create a $69 million fund to support the South African beer sector and protect jobs in the country where SAB was founded. It’s also selling stakes in joint ventures SAB held in the U.S. and China.
“With this clearance, we remain firmly on track for a closing in the second half of 2016," AB InBev Chief Executive Officer Carlos Brito said in a statement.
AB InBev has now obtained approval in 14 jurisdictions. Where regulatory clearance is still pending, the company said it “will continue to engage proactively with the relevant authorities to obtain the necessary clearances as quickly as possible.”
The company has already agreed to sell of SABMiller’s share in the world’s best-selling Snow beer to joint venture partner China Resources Beer, and Molson Coors Brewing Co. is set to acquire full control over brands like Coors Light and Blue Moon in the U.S.
The European Commission said it had concerns that the deal could have led to higher beer prices by removing an important competitor and made tacit co-ordination between the leading international brewers more likely. By offering to divest “practically all of SABMiller’s beer business in Europe,” AB InBev has addressed these concerns, the EU said in the statement.
The commission’s decision to approve the deal is conditional upon full compliance with the commitments.