AB InBev seeks to sell SABMiller's Grolsch, Peroni brands
Anheuser-Busch InBev is looking to sell SABMiller's Grolsch and Peroni brands in a bid to address potential concerns among European competition regulators over its planned acquisition of the world's second largest brewer.
The sale of the brands and their related businesses in Italy, the Netherlands and Britain would be conditional on AB InBev acquiring SABMiller in a cash and share offer currently worth some 72 billion pounds ($108 billion).
AB InBev said on Thursday it was also looking to sell London-based craft beer maker Meantime Brewing Company, given its focus on premium beers.
The Belgium-based brewer has already agreed to sell SABMiller's majority-stake in U.S. venture MillerCoors to Denver-based venture partner Molson Coors (TAP.N) for $12 billion.
"Like the previously announced disposal of the Miller business to Molson Coors, these steps reflect AB InBev’s pro-active approach to addressing potential regulatory concerns," AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, said in a statement.
AB InBev is already leader in the United States, Brazil and Mexico, three of the top four markets in terms of profits. With SABMiller, it is buying into Latin American countries such as Colombia and Peru and crucially, Africa, at a time when markets such as the United States are weakening as drinkers shun mainstream lagers in favor of craft brews and cocktails.
Beverage analysts have identified the new company's business in China, where SABMiller has a stake in market leader CR Snow, as a regulatory hurdle, but it is not clear whether EU regulators would insist on divestments in Europe.
The European Commission, which rules on antitrust issues in the EU, will carry out a full investigation because the combined market share would exceed 15 percent in at least one country.
In Italy, the new group would have 28.3 percent of the market, in the Netherlands 27.9 percent and in Britain 21.8 percent, according to beer market specialists Plato Logic.
However, Heineken would remain the leader in all three markets, with shares of 29.4 percent in Italy, 38.6 percent in the Netherlands and 27.5 percent in Britain.
Analysts speculate AB InBev may simply deem Grolsch and Peroni surplus to requirements given that, in Stella Artois and Beck's, it already has European lagers that it is marketing internationally.
AB InBev only announced its deal to buy Meantime in May.