US: Regulator Conditionally Approves AB InBev, SABMiller Deal

The US Department of Justice has conditionally approved the mega-merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, leaving the deal needing only approval from China to be completed.

Under the terms of the approval, AB InBev will sell SAB’s stake in MillerCoors (the joint venture with Molson Coors) as previously stated. AB InBev will also divest the rights to all SABMiller beer brands currently imported or licensed for sale in the US.

It will also limit the use of incentive programmes to reduce competition, a move aimed at protecting craft brewers.  The DOJ noted: “Independent distributors that sell (AB InBev’s) beer will have the freedom to sell and promote the variety of beers that many Americans drink”.

Additionally, AB InBev will also be required to secure the DOJ’s approval before acquiring any beer distributors or craft beer brands.  This condition keeps in mind the group’s recent acquisitions of many craft brewers, such as 10 Barrel and Backbone.

The Brewers Association noted: “The DOJ’s significant requirements … appear to address some of our major apprehensions with the merger. With effective enforcement of these provisions, small brewers can rely on their independent distributor partners to access the market”.

The terms of the agreement with the DOJ will last for 10 years.