Anheuser-Busch InBev has won U.S. antitrust approval for its takeover of SABMiller. Bloomberg News reports the company will sell SABMiller’s stake in MillerCoors and refrain from practices that restrict distribution of smaller, competing brands, according to a court filing Wednesday in Washington.
AB InBev will be required to seek DOJ review of any future acquisitions of beer distributors or craft beer brands. “The remedy we secured will help preserve and promote competition in the multi-billion dollar U.S. beer industry,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sonia Pfaffenroth of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
Following the announcement, Bob Pease, president and CEO of the Brewers Association, released the following statement:
“Today’s decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to approve the acquisition of SABMiller by ABI stipulates many of the safeguards the Brewers Association requested to preserve fair competition and access to market for America’s small and independent craft brewers.
“While we continue to believe that the merger of the world’s two largest brewers is bad for both the beer industry and consumers, the DOJ’s significant requirements, including the termination of incentive programs such as the Voluntary Anheuser Busch Incentive for Performance Program (VAIP), a cap on ABI’s self-distribution volume and other measures to protect distributor independence, 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. This will help ensure that beer enthusiasts can continue to enjoy a vast variety of options from the more than 4,600 breweries in the U.S.
“The Brewers Association will closely examine the consent decree and compliance with its provisions, as well as monitor ABI’s actions, specifically with regard to the acquisition of independent craft brewers. We remain concerned about how past, pending and future acquisitions may shift the dynamics of the current beer market. We will continue to encourage the DOJ to monitor and, where necessary, take action to remedy any anticompetitive effects of ABI’s behavior in the U.S.”
AB InBev still needs clearance from China before the deal can close. Last month, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News that Chinese officials were close to an agreement after the companies agreed to divest the maker of Snow beer, the world’s top-selling brand.