Australian antitrust regulator approves Anheuser Busch - SABMiller merger

The Australian antitrust regulator today approved Anheuser Busch Inbev SA's proposed $104-billion acquisition of smaller rival SABMiller Plc, saying the deal would not adversely affect the local market.

"The ACCC considers that the proposed acquisition is unlikely to result in higher beer prices for consumers," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, Rod Sims said in a statement.

But the deal is facing serious problems in the US and the European Union, where US regulators have started phase-two investigations, while the European Commission has said that it will make a decision on 24 May whether to approve the acquisition or take it forward to phase-two review.

AB InBev plans to obtain approval in the first phase itself as the second phase could be time-consuming. Last week, it offered to sell the Central and Eastern European brewing assets of SABMiller worth around $5 to $7 billion.

Last month, AB InBev also agreed to sell Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime European beer brands to Asahi Group Holdings Ltd for $2.9 billion (See: AB InBev accepts €2.55-bn Asahi offer for premium beer brands). The purchase by Asahi, which covers the premium brands and their related businesses in Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and internationally, is conditional on the proposed acquisition going through.

AB InBev, which owns Stella Artois, Budweiser and Corona, has already struck a deal to sell SABMiller's 58-per cent stake in MillerCoors to Molson Coors for $12 billion in order to allay competition concerns in the US.

In China, SABMiller is selling its 49-per cent stake in CR Snow to joint-venture partner China Resources Beer, and agreed to protect South African jobs and create a $69-million fund to support the local beer industry to help seal approval from the South African Competition Commission.