The EC has confirmed that the clearance is conditional on AB InBev selling SABMiller’s entire beer business in Europe.
The transaction would bring together AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, with SABMiller, the world’s second largest brewer, creating a global market leader.
The EC had concerns that the transaction would have led to higher beer prices in EU Member States where SABMiller is currently active, as the deal would have removed competition.
Divest beer business in Europe
AB InBev offered from the outset to divest the whole of SABMiller’s business in France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK to pre-empt possible concerns. AB InBev has already accepted an offer from the Japanese brewer Asahi for the businesses in these countries.
To dispel the additional concerns identified by the EC during the preliminary investigation, AB InBev also offered to divest SABMiller’s business in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. This can be actioned with approval of the purchasers by the EC.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, 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 euro 125bn of beer every year, so even a relatively small price increase could cause considerable harm to consumers.
“It was therefore very important to ensure that AB InBev’s takeover of SABMiller did not reduce competition on European beer markets.”
AB InBev in 14 jurisdictions
AB InBev said it had now obtained approval in 14 jurisdictions. Clearance decisions, with or without conditions, have now been obtained: in Asia-Pacific (Australia, India and South Korea); in Africa (Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zambia); in Europe (the EU, Albania and Ukraine); and in Latin America (Chile, Colombia and Mexico). Approval in Ecuador is subject to certain conditions.
In the remaining jurisdictions where regulatory clearance is still pending, AB InBev said it would continue to engage with the relevant authorities to obtain the necessary clearances as quickly as possible.
“We are very pleased with the positive decision of the European Commission. With this clearance, we remain firmly on track for a closing in the second half of 2016,” said Carlos Brito, ceo of AB InBev.
AB InBev owns over 200 beer brands including brands Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Leffe and Hoegaarden.