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EU approves giant beer merger, but requires sale of SABMiller assets


Brussels  –  The European Union on Tuesday approved the merger of the world’s two largest beer companies, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, as long as most of SABMiller’s business in Europe is put up for sale.
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement that the purchase of SABMiller by AB InBev, expected to be worth some 77 billion dollars and would be one of the biggest acquisitions in history.
“Today’s decision will ensure that competition is not weakened in these markets and that EU consumers are not worse off.
“Europeans buy about 125 billion Euros 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,’’ she added.
Belgium-based AB InBev owns brands including the Beck’s and Budweiser beer labels, while British-South African firm SABMiller produces Coors, Foster’s and Miller beer, among others.
According to the European Commission, the two companies are the third and fourth-largest brewers by volume following Heineken and Carlsberg.
“To win EU approval, AB InBev offered to sell practically the entire SABMiller beer business in Europe,’’ the commission said.
The Brussels institution said this addresses its competition concerns.
The Japanese company Asahi is set to purchase SABMiller’s business in Britain, France, Italy and the Netherlands.
Its assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia would be sold too.
The merger also has to be approved by regulators in the U.S., where the two beer giants have overlapping business.
The companies have said they expect the takeover to be completed in the second half of this year. (dpa/NAN)

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