EU REGULATORS have given approval for the proposed takeover of SABMiller by Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), subject to the condition that AB InBev sells all of SABMiller’s beer business in Europe.
The European Commission said the terms of the US$104bn transaction would “create a global market leader”, combining the world’s first- and second-largest brewer. The commission was concerned this would reduce competition in Europe and increase prices as AB InBev controls popular brands including Corona, Stella Artois and Budweiser, while SABMiller owns Peroni, Pilsner Urquell and Grolsch.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, head of competition policy for the European Commission, said: “Today's decision will ensure that competition is not weakened in these markets and that EU consumers are not worse off. Europeans buy around €125bn [US$139bn] of beer every year, so even a relatively small price increase could cause considerable harm to consumers.”
SABMiller has already partially met the EU’s terms by accepting a €2.6bn offer for its Peroni and Grolsch brands from Japanese brewer Asahi. AB InBev also offered to divest SABMiller's business in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, where AB InBev holds significant interest through Molson Coors. SABMiller said these divestments are conditional on the successful completion of the merger.
With conditional EU approval, the merger has now been cleared in 14 jurisdictions. The companies are still awaiting US regulatory approval as the Justice Department conducts an anti-trust investigation. AB InBev expects to obtain the remaining regulatory approvals and complete the deal by the second half of 2016.
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