Conditional merger clearance for major European beer brewers

The £71 billion SABMiller takeover by AB InBev was cleared by Commission decision M.7881 on 24 May 2016, subject to the divestiture of SABMiller’s European business.

AB InBev is the world’s largest brewer and the third largest brewer in Europe by volume. AB InBev’s brands include Stella Artois, Corona, Budweiser and Beck’s. SABMiller is the world’s second largest brewer and the fourth largest brewer in Europe by volume. Miller, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell and Grolsch are its most important brands.

The phase I clearance of such an important transaction is not surprising in light of the commitments made by the parties. From the outset, AB InBev had proposed to divest SABMiller’s business in France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK. An offer from Japanese brewer Asahi had already been accepted.

The Commission also raised concerns in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. AB InBev accordingly offered a second divestment “package”, resulting in close to an entire divestment of SABMiller’s European business.

The merger was notified and cleared in several jurisdictions in the world. Although clearance is still awaited by the US Department of Justice, the parties expect to close the deal in the second half of the year.

Kim Gillade

Annabelle Lepièce