What more can be said about the Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller merger? We’ve been talking about it here on FWx since September 2014, back when the Wall Street Journal was speculating that AB InBev was “talking to banks about financing” the deal. We talked about the bizarre regulatory twists and turns that would probably keep Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors separate despite America’s three biggest beer brands all somehow being tied to either AB InBev or SABMiller. At this point, the only thing left to say is that it’s probably a done deal.
Yesterday, Bloomberg – a site that knows a thing or two about business deals – reported, “The U.S. Justice Department is poised to approve Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s takeover of SABMiller in an agreement that may include measures to keep the beer behemoth from edging craft brewers from shelves, according to people familiar with the matter,” with the largest of those measures most likely to be “limits on the combined company’s ownership of distributors.”
Despite this possible concession, the other big revelation from Bloomberg’s take was that “smaller brewers don’t appear to be getting much traction in meetings with Justice Department officials about their complaints, said a fourth person familiar with the discussions.” Since an AB InBev and SABMiller merger could effectively give the new behemoth brand 29 percent of the global market, small independent brewers feel like they have the most to lose. Though, ironically, since SABMiller has offered to sell off its control of MillerCoors, Bloomberg reports that AB InBev’s “competitive position in the US” – which is currently around 45 percent – “will be essentially unchanged.” You know, now that SABMiller will no longer own Miller.
That final statement is very much indicative of the merger: It’s confusing and, even more so for those outside of the industry, it’s convoluted. The irony is that it’s all over a product we usually drink to help us relax.