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Inbev Anheuser Busch Deal Approved BY DOJ

By Rusty Carter VA Gazette

The Department of Justice gave its blessing Friday to the union of InBev and Anheuser-Busch, with one prenuptial condition: InBev must sell Labatt USA.

The caveat was made in a civil antitrust lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Washington aimed at blocking the original InBev-Busch deal. At the same time, the Justice Department filed a proposed settlement that would resolve the suit and other concerns about fair competition.

Here’s why divesture was important, according to PR Newswire. Budweiser and Labatt are the two biggest-selling beer brands in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, so allowing InBev to keep Labatt would have eliminated competition between Labatt USA and Anheuser-Busch. The Justice Department feared the result would be higher beer prices in all three markets.

“This divestiture will ensure that consumers will continue to benefit from the significant competition between the merging companies in upstate New York,” said Deborah A. Garza, deputy assistant attorney general of the Antitrust Division, in a statement.

In most U.S. markets, InBev beers account for less than 2% of sales and are largely non-competitive with Busch, which nearly dominates 50% of beer sales nationwide. The upstate New York markets are close to the Canadian border, and half of Labatt’s U.S. sales take place in Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester.

InBev’s ancestor, Interbrew, used its 1995 purchase of Labatt as an inroad into the North American beer market, paying $2 billion for the company. Interbrew’s first attempt at a North American presence came in 1989 when it tried to acquire Stroh’s. Coors beat Interbrew to the deal, and during the next five years Interbrew bought up small brewers in several companies before landing Labatt.

Friday’s announcement came 48 hours after Anheuser-Busch shareholders voted in favor of InBev’s buyout offer. The deal is anticipated to close by year-end, assuming InBev gets the remaining regulatory approvals and comes up with $52 billion Shareholders expect to fare well, since InBev is offering $70 a share. Busch stock opened at $68 a share Friday and shot up to $69.26 before dropping to $68.50 by the close. 

 

Although InBev has pledged to keep all 12 of Busch’s North American breweries open, it plans to sell non-core assets, chiefly Busch Entertainment, perhaps before the deal closes.

There’s been no word on potential buyers, although London-based Blackstone Group, Dubai World, and Spain’s Parques Reunidos are considered likely suitors

 

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